Int J Med Sci 2020; 17(2):263-273. doi:10.7150/ijms.36255

Research Paper

Transcriptome Profiling Reveals Distinct Phenotype of Human Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cell-derived Hepatocyte-like cells

Dongyan Shi1*, Jiaojiao Xin1*, Yingyan Lu2*, Wenchao Ding1, Jing Jiang1, Qian Zhou1, Suwan Sun1, Beibei Guo1, Xingping Zhou1, Jun Li1,3✉

1. State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine. 79 Qingchun Rd., Hangzhou, 310003. China.
2. Clinical Medical Laboratory, Tongde Hospital of Zhejiang Province. 234 Gucui Rd., Hangzhou, 310012. China.
3. Taizhou Central Hospital, Taizhou University Hospital. 999 Donghai Rd., Taizhou, 318000. China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Shi D, Xin J, Lu Y, Ding W, Jiang J, Zhou Q, Sun S, Guo B, Zhou X, Li J. Transcriptome Profiling Reveals Distinct Phenotype of Human Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cell-derived Hepatocyte-like cells. Int J Med Sci 2020; 17(2):263-273. doi:10.7150/ijms.36255. Available from

File import instruction


Background: Human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell-derived hepatocyte-like cells (hBMSC-HLCs) are a promising alternative for primary human hepatocytes (HHs) for treating liver disease. However, the molecular characteristics of HLCs remain unclear. Here, we aimed to clarify the transcriptome characteristics of hBMSC-HLCs for future clinical application.

Materials and Methods: hBMSCs were isolated from the bone marrow of healthy volunteers and differentiated into hepatocytes. mRNA sequencing was used in the transcriptome profiling of hBMSC-HLCs, with hBMSCs and HHs as controls.

Results: hBMSC-HLCs exhibited a polygonal morphology, glycogen accumulation and albumin expression. A total of 630 upregulated and 1082 downregulated genes were observed in hBMSC-HLCs and HHs compared with undifferentiated hBMSCs. The upregulated genes were mainly involved in hepatic metabolism and inflammatory and immune responses. The downregulated genes were mainly associated with stem cell characteristics (multipotent differentiation, cell cycle regulation, etc.). Confirmatory qRT-PCR of 9 upregulated and 9 downregulated genes with log2 fold changes > 5 showed similar results. In vivo transdifferentiation of hBMSCs in pigs with fulminant hepatic failure confirmed the similarly upregulated expression of 5 hepatogenic genes (TDO2, HP, SERPINA3, LBP and SAA1), showing a 150-fold change in liver tissues at 7 days after hBMSC transplantation. These 5 genes mainly contributed to liver metabolism and inflammation.

Conclusion: hBMSC-HLCs possess a hepatic transcriptome profile and express hepatic-specific genes in vitro and in vivo, which might be useful for future clinical applications. The five upregulated genes identified herein could be potential biomarkers for the characterization of hBMSC-HLCs.

Keywords: hepatocyte differentiation, mesenchymal stem cell, mRNA sequencing.