Pluripotent bone marrow-derived side population (BM-SP) stem cells have been shown to repopulate the hematopoietic system and to contribute to skeletal and cardiac muscle regeneration after transplantation. We tested BM-SP cells for their ability to regenerate heart and skeletal muscle using a model of cardiomyopathy and muscular dystrophy that lacks δ-sarcoglycan. The absence of δ-sarcoglycan produces microinfarcts in heart and skeletal muscle that should recruit regenerative stem cells. Additionally, sarcoglycan expression after transplantation should mark successful stem cell maturation into cardiac and skeletal muscle lineages. BM-SP cells from normal male mice were transplanted into female δ-sarcoglycan-null mice. We detected engraftment of donor-derived stem cells into skeletal muscle, with the majority of donor-derived cells incorporated within myofibers. In the heart, donor-derived nuclei were detected inside cardiomyocytes. Skeletal muscle myofibers containing donor-derived nuclei generally failed to express sarcoglycan, with only 2 sarcoglycan-positive fibers detected in the quadriceps muscle from all 14 mice analyzed. Moreover, all cardiomyocytes with donor-derived nuclei were sarcoglycan-negative. The absence of sarcoglycan expression in cardiomyocytes and skeletal myofibers after transplantation indicates impaired differentiation and/or maturation of bone marrow-derived stem cells. The inability of BM-SP cells to express this protein severely limits their utility for cardiac and skeletal muscle regeneration.
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