Angiopoietin-1 receptor Tie2 distinguishes multipotent differentiation capability in bovine coccygeal nucleus pulposus cells.

Tekari, Adel; Chan, Samantha C.W.; Sakai, Daisuke; Grad, Sibylle; Gantenbein, Benjamin (2016). Angiopoietin-1 receptor Tie2 distinguishes multipotent differentiation capability in bovine coccygeal nucleus pulposus cells. Stem cell research & therapy, 7(1), p. 75. BioMed Central 10.1186/s13287-016-0337-9

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The intervertebral disc (IVD) has limited self-healing potential and disc repair strategies require an appropriate cell source such as progenitor cells that could regenerate the damaged cells and tissues. The objective of this study was to identify nucleus pulposus-derived progenitor cells (NPPC) and examine their potential in regenerative medicine in vitro.


Nucleus pulposus cells (NPC) were obtained from 1-year-old bovine coccygeal discs by enzymatic digestion and were sorted for the angiopoietin-1 receptor Tie2. The obtained Tie2- and Tie2+ fractions of cells were differentiated into osteogenic, adipogenic, and chondrogenic lineages in vitro. Colony-forming units were prepared from both cell populations and the colonies formed were analyzed and quantified after 8 days of culture. In order to improve the preservation of the Tie2+ phenotype of NPPC in monolayer cultures, we tested a selection of growth factors known to have stimulating effects, cocultured NPPC with IVD tissue, and exposed them to hypoxic conditions (2 % O2).


After 3 weeks of differentiation culture, only the NPC that were positive for Tie2 were able to differentiate into osteocytes, adipocytes, and chondrocytes as characterized by calcium deposition (p < 0.0001), fat droplet formation (p < 0.0001), and glycosaminoglycan content (p = 0.0095 vs. Tie2- NPC), respectively. Sorted Tie2- and Tie2+ subpopulations of cells both formed colonies; however, the colonies formed from Tie2+ cells were spheroid in shape, whereas those from Tie2- cells were spread and fibroblastic. In addition, Tie2+ cells formed more colonies in 3D culture (p = 0.011) than Tie2- cells. During expansion, a fast decline in the fraction of Tie2+ cells was observed (p < 0.0001), which was partially reversed by low oxygen concentration (p = 0.0068) and supplementation of the culture with fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) (p < 0.0001).


Our results showed that the bovine nucleus pulposus contains NPPC that are Tie2+. These cells fulfilled formally progenitor criteria that were maintained in subsequent monolayer culture for up to 7 days by addition of FGF2 or hypoxic conditions. We propose that the nucleus pulposus represents a niche of precursor cells for regeneration of the IVD.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute for Surgical Technology & Biomechanics ISTB [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Tekari, Adel, Chan, Samantha (B), Gantenbein, Benjamin


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BioMed Central




Benjamin Gantenbein

Date Deposited:

08 Jul 2016 13:31

Last Modified:

29 Mar 2023 23:34

Publisher DOI:


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PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Fibroblast growth factor 2; Growth factors; Hypoxia; Intervertebral disc; Nucleus pulposus; Nucleus pulposus progenitor cells; Tie2




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