The Differentiation of Skin Mesenchymal Stem Cells Towards a Schwann Cell Phenotype: Impact of Sigma-1 Receptor Activation

L. Saulite, E. Vavers, L. Zvejniece, M. Dambrova, U. Riekstina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) are the source of mature Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The NCSC population resides in the bulge of hair follicles and in the dermis. Recently, it was shown that 2–3% of the human dermis mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) population expresses the NCSC marker CD271, thus enabling the use of skin MSCs for studying Schwann cell differentiation in vitro. The aims of this study were to establish a protocol for human skin MSC differentiation towards Schwann cell-like cells (SC-lcs) and to analyse the expression of sigma-1 receptor (S1R) in SC-lcs. The impact of S1R ligands, namely the selective agonist PRE-084, the positive allosteric modulator E1R and the selective antagonist NE-100, on Schwann cell differentiation was assessed. The expression of the neuron-specific genes Tubulin-βIII and Integrin-6α, the Schwann cell-specific gene S100b, MBP and the NCSC-specific genes p75NTR, Sox10, Notch1, Integrin-4α, Ap2α and Pax6 was analysed in MSCs and SC-lcs by real-time RT-PCR. BDNF secretion was evaluated by ELISA. The effect of S1R ligands on SC-lc differentiation was measured using BDNF ELISA and MBP flow cytometry. After MSC differentiation, NCSC markers p75NTR and Integrin-4α were downregulated 3.5-fold and 2-fold, respectively. To the contrary, MBP and S100b were significantly upregulated in SC-lcs. S1R ligands showed a tendency to increase the secretion of BDNF by the SC-lc population. PRE-084 and E1R increased MBP expression in the SC-lc population, whereas 3 μM NE-100 inhibited MBP expression in SC-lcs. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that S1R plays an important role in skin MSC differentiation towards myelinating Schwann cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2840-2850
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • BDNF
  • MBP
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Schwann cells
  • Sigma-1 receptor

Field of Science*

  • 3.1 Basic medicine

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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