Stem Cells and Development
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We previously reported the differentiation of cells derived from porcine female fetal skin into cells resembling germ cells and oocytes. A subpopulation of these cells expressed germ cell markers and formed aggregates resembling cumulus-oocyte complexes. Some of these aggregates extruded large oocyte-like cells (OLCs) that expressed markers consistent with those of oocytes. The objective of the current study was to further characterize OLCs differentiated from porcine skin-derived stem cells. Reverse transcriptase (RT)-polymerase chain reaction and Western blot revealed the expression of connexin37 and connexin43, both of which are characteristic of ovarian follicles. The expression of meiosis markers DMC1 and synaptonemal complex protein, but not STRA8 and REC8, was detected in the OLC cultures. Immunofluorescence with an antibody against synaptonemal complex protein on chromosome spreads revealed a very small subpopulation of stained OLCs that had a similar pattern to leptotene, zytotene, or pachytene nuclei during prophase I of meiosis. Sodium bisulfite sequencing of the differentially methylated region of H19 indicated that this region is almost completely demethylated in OLCs, similar to in vivo-derived oocytes. We also investigated the differentiation potential of male skin-derived stem cells in the same differentiation medium. Large cells with oocyte morphology were generated in the male stem cell differentiation cultures. These OLCs expressed oocyte genes such as octamer-binding transcription factor 4 (OCT4), growth differentiation factor-9b (GDF9B), deleted in azoospermia-like (DAZL), VASA, zona pellucida B (ZPB), and zona pellucida C (ZPC). It was concluded that skin-derived stem cells from both male and female porcine fetuses are capable of entering an oocyte differentiation pathway, but the culture system currently in place is inadequate to support the complete development of competent oocytes.