Molecular Characterization of Differentiated-Resistance MSC Subclones by Single-Cell Transcriptomes

Andres Stucky, Li Gao, Shengwen Calvin Li*, Lingli Tu, Jun Luo, Xi Huang, Xuelian Chen, Xiaoqing Li, Tiffany H. Park, Jin Cai, Mustafa H. Kabeer, Ashley S. Plant, Lan Sun*, Xi Zhang*, Jiang F. Zhong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The mechanism of tumorigenicity potentially evolved in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) remains elusive, resulting in inconsistent clinical application efficacy. We hypothesized that subclones in MSCs contribute to their tumorgenicity, and we approached MSC-subclones at the single-cell level. Methods: MSCs were cultured in an osteogenic differentiation medium and harvested on days 12, 19, and 25 for cell differentiation analysis using Alizarin Red and followed with the single-cell transcriptome. Results: Single-cell RNA-seq analysis reveals a discrete cluster of MSCs during osteogenesis, including differentiation-resistant MSCs (DR-MSCs), differentiated osteoblasts (DO), and precursor osteoblasts (PO). The DR-MSCs population resembled cancer initiation cells and were subjected to further analysis of the yes associated protein 1 (YAP1) network. Verteporfin was also used for YAP1 inhibition in cancer cell lines to confirm the role of YAP1 in MSC--involved tumorigenicity. Clinical data from various cancer types were analyzed to reveal relationships among YAP1, OCT4, and CDH6 in MSC--involved tumorigenicity. The expression of cadherin 6 (CDH6), octamer-binding transcription factor 4 (OCT4), and YAP1 expression was significantly upregulated in DR-MSCs compared to PO and DO. YAP1 inhibition by Verteporfin accelerated the differentiation of MSCs and suppressed the expression of YAP1, CDH6, and OCT4. A survey of 56 clinical cohorts revealed a high degree of co-expression among CDH6, YAP1, and OCT4 in various solid tumors. YAP1 inhibition also down-regulated HeLa cell viability and gradually inhibited YAP1 nuclear localization while reducing the transcription of CDH6 and OCT4. Conclusions: We used single-cell sequencing to analyze undifferentiated MSCs and to discover a carcinogenic pathway in single-cell MSCs of differentiated resistance subclones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number699144
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Mar 9 2022


  • Cdh6
  • Yap1
  • cadherin
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • oct4
  • subclonal tumorigenicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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