Assay validation for the assessment of adipogenesis of multipotential stromal cells-a direct comparison of four different methods

Andrew Aldridge, Dimitrios Kouroupis, Sarah Churchman, Anne English, Eileen Ingham, Elena Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background aims. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are regenerative and immuno-privileged cells that are used for both tissue regeneration and treatment of severe inflammation-related disease. For quality control ofmanufacturedMSCbatches in regard to mature fat cell contamination, a quantitative method for measuring adipogenesis is needed. Methods. Four previously proposed methods were validated with the use of bone marrow (BM) MSCs during a 21-day in vitro assay. Oil red staining was scored semiquantitatively; peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-γ and fatty acid binding protein (FABP)4 transcripts were measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction; FABP4 protein accumulation was evaluated by flow cytometry; and Nile red/40,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) ratios were measured in fluorescent microplate assay. Skin fibroblasts and MSCs from fat pad, cartilage and umbilical cord were used as controls. Results. Oil red staining indicated considerable heterogeneity between BM donors and individual cells within the same culture. FABP4 transcript levels increased 100- to 5000-fold by day 21, with large donor variability observed. Flow cytometry revealed increasing intra-culture heterogeneity over time; more granular cells accumulated more FABP4 protein and Nile red fluorescence compared with less granular cells. Nile red increase in day-21 MSCs was ̃5- and 4-fold, measured by flow cytometry or microplate assay, respectively. MSC proliferation/apoptosis was accounted through the use of Nile red/DAPI ratios; adipogenesis levels in day-21 BM MSCs increased ̃13-fold, with significant correlations with oil red scoring observed for MSC from other sources. Conclusions. Flow cytometry permits the study of MSC differentiation at the single-cell level and sorting more and less mature cells from mixed cell populations. The microplate assay with the use of the Nile red/DAPI ratio provides rapid quantitative measurements and could be used as a low-cost, high-throughput method to quality-control MSC batches from different tissue sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-101
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipogenesis
  • Flow cytometry
  • Multipotential stromal cells
  • Nile red

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Transplantation


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