Background: Previous studies have shown that BMP4 may play an important part in the development of auditory neurons (ANs), which are degenerated in sensorineural hearing loss. However, whether BMP4 can promote sensory fate specification from mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) is unknown so far.
Methods: MSCs isolated from Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were confirmed by expression of MSC markers using flow cytometry and adipogenesis/osteogenesis using differentiation assays. MSCs treated with a complex of neurotrophic factors (BMP4 group and non-BMP4 group) were induced into auditory neuron-like cells, then the differences between the two groups were analyzed in morphological observation, cell growth curve, qRT-PCR, and immunofluorescence.
Results: Flow cytometric analysis showed that the isolated cells expressed typical MSC surface markers. After adipogenic and osteogenic induction, the cells were stained by oil red O and Alizarin Red. The neuronal induced cells were in the growth plateau and had special forms of neurons. In the presence of BMP4, the inner ear genes NF-M, Neurog1, GluR4, NeuroD, Calretinin, NeuN, Tau, and GATA3 were up-regulated in MSCs.
Conclusions: MSCs have the capacity to differentiate into auditory neuron-like cells in vitro. As an effective inducer, BMP4 may play a key role in transdifferentiation.