Wnt signaling regulates the proliferation potential and lineage commitment of human umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells


Relatively less is known about the interactions that tightly regulate the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to maintain their pluripotency. Recent studies reports that Wnt proteins might play an important role in governing the MSC cell fate. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that Wnt proteins differentially regulate in vitro differentiation of human umbilical cord derived MSCs. Stromal cells from human umbilical cord (hUCMSCs) were isolated and treated with Wnt inhibitor/activator. FACS analysis of hUCMSCs for CD29, CD90, CD73, CD44, CD45 marker expression and gene expression of Wnt target genes and lineage specific genes were performed after Lithium Chloride (LiCl) and Quercetin treatment for 6 days. The cultured primary hUCMSCs demonstrated elevated MSC surface marker expression with clonogenic properties and differentiation potentials towards osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic lineages. Downregulation in the expression of Wnt with Quercetin treatment was noted. LiCl treatment increased cellular proliferation but did not influence differentiation suggesting that the cells retain pluripotency whereas Quercetin treatment downregulated stemness markers, Wnt target gene expression and promoted osteogenesis as demonstrated by FACS analysis, calcium estimation and gene expression studies. Shift of differentiation potential after the inhibition of Wnt signaling by Quercetin was evident from the gene expression data and elevated calcium production, driving MSCs towards probable osteogenic lineage. The findings in particular are likely to open an interesting avenue of biomedical research, summarizing the impact of Wnt signaling on lineage commitment of MSCs.

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The authors are thankful to Chettinad Academy of Research and Education (CARE) for providing the infrastructural support and to SERB, DST, Govt. of India and CARE for providing the financial support to complete this piece of work.


This work was supported by the Grants sanctioned to Dr. Antara Banerjee (PI) from the SERB-DST Govt. of India with the sanction File No ECR/2017/001066 and departmental Grants at Chettinad Academy of Research and Education.

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Correspondence to Antara Banerjee.

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The authors report no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Human Ethics Committee (CARE – IHEC, ethical clearance reference number: 113/IHEC/12-16, dated 06-01-2017).

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Jothimani, G., Di Liddo, R., Pathak, S. et al. Wnt signaling regulates the proliferation potential and lineage commitment of human umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells. Mol Biol Rep 47, 1293–1308 (2020) doi:10.1007/s11033-019-05232-5

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  • hUCMSC
  • Wnt signaling
  • Osteogenesis
  • Pluripotency
  • Proliferation
  • Differentiation