We have previously shown that coculture of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) for 14 days with immortalized fetal hepatocytes yields CD34+ cells that can be expanded in serum-free liquid culture into large numbers of megaloblastic nucleated erythroblasts resembling yolk sac-derived cells. We show here that these primitive erythroblasts undergo a switch in hemoglobin (Hb) composition during late terminal erythroid maturation with the basophilic erythroblasts expressing predominantly Hb Gower I (ζ2ε2) and the orthochromatic erythroblasts hemoglobin Gower II (α2ε 2). This suggests that the switch from Hb Gower I to Hb Gower II, the first hemoglobin switch in humans is a maturation switch not a lineage switch. We also show that extending the coculture of the hESCs with immortalized fetal hepatocytes to 35 days yields CD34+ cells that differentiate into more developmentally mature, fetal liver-like erythroblasts, that are smaller, express mostly fetal hemoglobin, and can enucleate. We conclude that hESC-derived erythropoiesis closely mimics early human development because the first 2 human hemoglobin switches are recapitulated, and because yolk sac-like and fetal liver-like cells are sequentially produced. Development of a method that yields erythroid cells with an adult phenotype remains necessary, because the most mature cells that can be produced with current systems express less than 2% adult β-globin mRNA.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology