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Developmental Biology

Directed Differentiation of Hemogenic Endothelial Cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Published: March 31st, 2021



1Department of Cell Biology, University of Virginia, 2Cardiovascular Research Center, University of Virginia, 3Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 4Department of Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, 5Yale Cardiovascular Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine

Presented here is a simple protocol for the directed differentiation of hemogenic endothelial cells from human pluripotent stem cells in approximately 1 week.

Blood vessels are ubiquitously distributed within all tissues of the body and perform diverse functions. Thus, derivation of mature vascular endothelial cells, which line blood vessel lumens, from human pluripotent stem cells is crucial for a multitude of tissue engineering and regeneration applications. In vivo, primordial endothelial cells are derived from the mesodermal lineage and are specified toward specific subtypes, including arterial, venous, capillary, hemogenic, and lymphatic. Hemogenic endothelial cells are of particular interest because, during development, they give rise to hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, which then generate all blood lineages throughout life. Thus, creating a system to generate hemogenic endothelial cells in vitro would provide an opportunity to study endothelial-to-hematopoietic transition, and may lead to ex vivo production of human blood products and reduced reliance on human donors. While several protocols exist for the derivation of progenitor and primordial endothelial cells, generation of well-characterized hemogenic endothelial cells from human stem cells has not been described. Here, a method for the derivation of hemogenic endothelial cells from human embryonic stem cells in approximately 1 week is presented: a differentiation protocol with primitive streak cells formed in response to GSK3β inhibitor (CHIR99021), then mesoderm lineage induction mediated by bFGF, followed by primordial endothelial cell development promoted by BMP4 and VEGF-A, and finally hemogenic endothelial cell specification induced by retinoic acid. This protocol yields a well-defined population of hemogenic endothelial cells that can be used to further understand their molecular regulation and endothelial-to-hematopoietic transition, which has the potential to be applied to downstream therapeutic applications.

Endothelial cells (ECs) are a heterogeneous population of cells that perform multiple functions throughout the human body and in engineered tissues. In addition to supporting and regulating other cell types (i.e., cardiomyocytes1, osteoblastic cells2), these functions include forming a selective barrier between blood and tissues and assisting in tissue formation3. Differentiation of mature ECs during normal development requires diverse signaling pathways. Primordial ECs are derived from mesoderm progenitors, and are then specified toward mature arterial, venous, capillary and lymphatic phenotypes<....

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1. Reagents and reagent preparation

NOTE: A list of reagents is provided in Table of Materials.

  1. Obtain the human pluripotent stem cell lines: H1-hESC, H9-Fucci-hESC.
    NOTE: The generation of hemogenic ECs may be more efficient in the H1 cell line.
  2. Prepare matrix protein stocks: Aliquot the matrix protein into pre-chilled 1.5 mL tubes (on ice) so that each tube contains 1 mg of matrix protein. 1 mg of matrix protein is enough to coat all wells of two.......

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A schematic outlining the specification of primordial ECs and hemogenic ECs from hESCs, and a representative image of cells 24 h after plating are shown in Figure 1. Following specification, primordial ECs and hemogenic ECs are FACS purified on days 5 and 8, respectively. Primordial ECs are defined as CD31+ CD45- and hemogenic ECs are defined as CD31+ KDR+ c-Kit+ CD34+ VE-Cadherin- CD45-. A representative.......

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Herein, the steps for producing hemogenic endothelial cells from human embryonic stem cells in approximately 1 week using a murine feeder- and serum-free 2D culture system (Figure 1) are outlined. This protocol expands on a method described by Sriram et al. (2015) to obtain primordial ECs38. The primordial nature and specification potential of the CD31+ CD45- ECs is demonstrated by culturing these cells on DLL4-coated plates and observing gene ex.......

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This work was partially supported by NIH grants HL128064 and U2EB017103. Further support was provided by CT Innovations 15-RMB-YALE-04 grant.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
15 cm dishes Corning 430599 tissue culture treated
35 mm dishes Corning 430165 tissue culture treated
6-well plates Corning 3516 tissue culture treated
Antimicrobial reagent
Brand Name: Normocin
Invitrogen ant-nr-1
bFGF R&D systems 233-FB-025 use at 50 ng/mL
BMP4 BioLegend 595202 use at 25 ng/mL
Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) Fisher Scientific BP1600-1
Cell Detatchment Solution
Brand Name: vAccutase
Stemcell Technologies 7920
Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) Sigma Aldrich D2650-100mL
Dispase Stemcell Technologies 7913
DLL4 R&D systems 1506-D4/CF recombinant human; use at 10 μg/mL
DMEM:F12 Gibco 11320-033
Dulbecco's Phosphate Buffered Saline (PBS) Gibco 14190144
Endothelial cell growth medium
Brand Name: EGM-2 Endothelial Cell Growth Medium-2 BulletKit (EGM-2)
Lonza CC-3162
FACS tubes Corning 352235 polystyrene round bottom with filter cap
Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) Gemini Bio 100-106
Fibronectin ThermoFisher Scientific 33016015 use at 4 mg/cm2
GSK3i/CHIR99021 Stemgent 04-0004-02 10 mM stock; use at 5 μM
Hanks Balanced Salt Solution (HBSS) Gibco 14175-095
Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) Fisher Scientific A144S-500
Matrix protein 
Brand Name: Matrigel
Corning 356230 Growth factor reduced. Refer to the Certificate of Analysis for the lot to determine the protein (Matrigel) concentration. This concentration is required to calculate the volume of Matrigel that contains 1 mg of protein.
Methylcellulose-based medium
Brand Name: MethoCult H4435 Enriched
Stemcell Technologies 4435
Pluripotent stem cell differentiation medium
Brand Name: STEMdiff APEL 2
Stemcell Technologies 5270
Pluripotent stem cells: H1, H9, H9-FUCCI WiCell WA09 (H9), WA01 (H1) human; H9-FUCCI were obtained from Dr. Ludovic Vallier's lab at Cambridge Stem Cell Institute
Protein-Free Hybridoma Medium (PFMH) Gibco 12040077
Retinoic Acid Sigma Aldrich R2625-50mg use at 0.5 μM
Reverse transcription master mix
Brand Name: iScript Reverse Transcription Supermix
BioRad 1708840
RNA extraction kit
Brand Name: RNeasy Mini Kit
Qiagen 74104
Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) Fisher Scientific SS255-1
Stem cell growth medium
Brand Name: mTeSR1
Stemcell Technologies 85850
SYBR Green master mix
Brand Name: iTaq Universal SYBR Green Master Mix
BioRad 1725121
Trypsin-EDTA Gibco 25299956 0.25%
VEGF165 (VEGF-A) PeproTech 100-20 use at 50 ng/mL
α-CD31-FITC BioLegend 303104 2 μg/mL*
α-CD34-Pacific Blue BioLegend 343512 2 μg/mL*
α-CD45-APC/Cy7 BioLegend 304014 2 μg/mL*
α-c-Kit-APC BioLegend 313206 2 μg/mL*
α-Flk-1-PE/Cy7 BioLegend 359911 2 μg/mL*
α-VE-Cadherin-PE BioLegend 348506 2 μg/mL*
* Antibody fluorescent conjugates should be optimized based on the cell sorter used. Presented here are the final concentrations utilized in this study.

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