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Cell Biology International (2011) 35, 1261–1266 (Printed in Great Britain)
Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into type II alveolar epithelial cells in vitro
Nan Ma*, Hui Gai*, Ju Mei*, Fang‑Bao Ding*, Chun‑Rong Bao*, David M. Nguyen† and Hong Zhong*1
*Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Xinhua Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200092, Peoples Republic of China, and †Beth Israel Medical Center, 1st Avenue at 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, U.S.A.

In this study, we demonstrate that BMSCs (bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells) can be successfully differentiated into type II alveolar epithelial cells in vitro under mimic pulmonary microenvironment. BMSCs were co-cultured with MRC-5 cells in modified SAGM (small airway growth medium). The BMSC-derived type II alveolar epithelial cells morphologically resemble human lung epithelial cells. They began to appear after 10 days in co-culture and became morphologically dominant after day 15. Correspondingly, SPC (surfactant protein C), a specific functional marker of human type II alveolar epithelial cells, was detected in differentiated cells by RT–PCR (reverse transcription–PCR) analysis after day 15. Immunostaining analysis revealed the present of scattered SPC-positive cells with a differentiation efficiency of 2.43–4.21%. Our study further showed that the SPC gene expression level in differentiated cells was related to the ratio of BMSCs to MRC-5 cells and the components of modified SAGM.

Key words: alveolar epithelial cells, bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell (BMSC), differentiation, type II alveolar cells, surfactant protein C (SPC)

Abbreviations: BMSC, bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell, FGF, fibroblast growth factor, HSC, haemopoietic stem cell, MSC, mesenchymal stem cell, PFA, paraformaldehyde, RT–PCR, reverse transcription–PCR, SAGM, small airway growth medium, SPC, surfactant protein C

1To whom correspondence should be addressed (email

Received 15 January 2011/14 April 2011; accepted 4 May 2011

Published as Cell Biology International Immediate Publication 4 May 2011, doi:10.1042/CBI20110026

© 2011 The Author(s)
The author(s) has paid for this article to be freely available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Licence ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

ISSN Print: 1065-6995
ISSN Electronic: 1095-8355
Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the International Federation for Cell Biology (IFCB)