Background: We have shown that the differentiation of human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) into endothelial cells (ECs) is more efficient when performed with a 3-dimensional (3D) scaffold of biomaterial than in monolayers. The current study aims to further increase hiPSC-EC differentiation efficiency by deciphering the signaling pathways in 3D scaffolds. Methods and results: We modified our 3D protocol by using U-46619 to upregulate both p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signaling, which increased the differentiation efficiency (as measured by CD31 expression) to as high as 89% in two established hiPSC lines. The differentiated cells expressed arteriovenous, but not lymphatic, markers; formed tubular structures and EC lumen in vitro; had significantly shorter population-doubling times than monolayer-differentiated hiPSC-ECs; and restored perfusion and vascularity in a murine hind limb ischemia model. The differentiation efficiency was also > 85% in three hiPSC lines that had been derived from patients with diseases or disease symptoms that have been linked to endothelial dysfunction. Conclusions: These observations demonstrate that activating both p38MAPK and ERK1/2 signaling pathways with U-46619 improves the efficiency of arteriovenous hiPSC-EC differentiation and produces cells with greater proliferative capacity.
- Endothelial differentiation
- Human-induced pluripotent stem cells
- Signaling pathways