Osteogenic potential of rat spleen stromal cells

Anna R. Derubeis, Maddalena Mastrogiacomo, Ranieri Cancedda, Rodolfo Quarto

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Evidence is mounting that an increasing number of cell populations in the adult organism already committed and/or differentiated retain the ability to reprogram themselves and give rise to a different phenotype. Bone marrow stromal cells have long been recognized as early progenitor cells for osteoblasts, chondrocytes, hematopoietic-supportive fibroblasts and adipocytes. Recent reports though have demonstrated a potential of cell populations outside the bone marrow environment to sustain bone formation under specific circumstances. The formation of bone nodules in the spleen of IL-5 transgenic mice has been recently reported (Macias et al. (2001): J. Clin. Invest. 107, 949-959). We thus postulated that a cell population exists in the spleen that under particular microenvironmental conditions is able to reprogram itself and pursue a fate other than the tissue-specific one. Therefore we isolated and expanded in vitro spleen-derived stromal cells. After expansion, these cells were challenged with culture conditions designed to induce osteogenic differentiation. We hypothesized that the combination of a proliferating factor (fibroblast growth factor 2) and a differentiating hormone (dexamethasone) would allow us to induce spleen-derived stromal cells to proliferate and at the same time to express osteoblast-specific genes. Thus, spleen-derived stromal cells were isolated from rat spleen and expanded in the presence of fibroblast growth factor 2 and dexamethasone. Once primary cultures reached confluence they were either switched to an osteo-inductive medium or implanted in immunodeficient mice. Although no bone formation was observed in in vivo experiments, in vitro spleen-derived stromal cells were able to deposit a mineralized matrix. Gene expression, as revealed by RT-PCR analysis, evidenced that the deposition of a mineralized matrix was concomitant with the expression of CBFA1 and osteocalcin, along with alkaline phosphatase and bone sialoprotein. Our data suggest that rat spleen-derived stromal cells can undergo osteogenic differentiation in a permissive microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Cell Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Microenvironment
  • Osteogenesis
  • Spleen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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