Previous studies from our laboratory showed that human amnion epithelial cells (AECs) have multiple functions, such as synthesis and release of catecholamines, acetylcholine, neurotrophic factors, activin, and noggin. In this study, we investigated the identity of neural progenitor cells in human amnion mesenchyme cells (AMCs), which lie immediately adjacent to the AECs. Cryostat sections revealed that vimentin expression was detected in the AMCs and CK19 in AECs. Vimentin-positive cells made up 97.5% of total cells tested in cultured AMCs. Interestingly, 3.6% of total AMCs expressed the phenotype CK19+/vimentin +, indicating coexpression of epithelial and mesenchyme cell markers. In culturing with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) for 24 hr, 66-82% of cells were found to be BrdU positive, suggesting that they have proliferating potency. By using RT-PCR, AMCs express mRNA of nestin and Musashi1. With a neural cell differentiating protocol, cell bodies extended long bipolar or complex multipolar processes. Nestin (87.7% of total cells tested) and Musashi1 (93.1%) were expressed in undifferentiated cells, and their positively stained cells increased in number slightly after induction. Undifferentiated cells were stained by anti-Tuj1 and NF-M, and their positively stained cells increased significantly in number after induction, to 72.8% and 46.0%, respectively. Meanwhile, glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive cells increased from 25.4% to 43.2% after induction. These studies demonstrate that AMCs have phenotypes of neuroglial progenitor cells and can be differentiated into neuroglial phenotypes by optimal differentiation protocol. Eventually, AMC-derived stem cells may be a favorable cell vehicle in regenerative medicine.
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