Microfluidic Perfusion for Regulating Diffusible Signaling in Stem Cells
Author(s)Blagovic, Katarina; Kim, Lily Y.; Voldman, Joel
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Background Autocrine & paracrine signaling are widespread both in vivo and in vitro, and are particularly important in embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency and lineage commitment. Although autocrine signaling via fibroblast growth factor-4 (FGF4) is known to be required in mouse ESC (mESC) neuroectodermal specification, the question of whether FGF4 autocrine signaling is sufficient, or whether other soluble ligands are also involved in fate specification, is unknown. The spatially confined and closed-loop nature of diffusible signaling makes its experimental control challenging; current experimental approaches typically require prior knowledge of the factor/receptor in order to modulate the loop. A new approach explored in this work is to leverage transport phenomena at cellular resolution to downregulate overall diffusible signaling through the physical removal of cell-secreted ligands. Methodology/Principal Findings We develop a multiplex microfluidic platform to continuously remove cell-secreted (autocrine\paracrine) factors to downregulate diffusible signaling. By comparing cell growth and differentiation in side-by-side chambers with or without added cell-secreted factors, we isolate the effects of diffusible signaling from artifacts such as shear, nutrient depletion, and microsystem effects, and find that cell-secreted growth factor(s) are required during neuroectodermal specification. Then we induce FGF4 signaling in minimal chemically defined medium (N2B27) and inhibit FGF signaling in fully supplemented differentiation medium with cell-secreted factors to determine that the non-FGF cell-secreted factors are required to promote growth of differentiating mESCs. Conclusions/Significance Our results demonstrate for the first time that flow can downregulate autocrine\paracrine signaling and examine sufficiency of extracellular factors. We show that autocrine\paracrine signaling drives neuroectodermal commitment of mESCs through both FGF4-dependent and -independent pathways. Overall, by uncovering autocrine\paracrine processes previously hidden in conventional culture systems, our results establish microfluidic perfusion as a technique to study and manipulate diffusible signaling in cell systems.
DepartmentWhitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Research Laboratory of Electronics
Public Library of Science
Blagovic, Katarina, Lily Y. Kim, and Joel Voldman. “Microfluidic Perfusion for Regulating Diffusible Signaling in Stem Cells.” Ed. Wei-Chun Chin. PLoS ONE 6 (2011): e22892.
Final published version