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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Culture of human pluripotent stem cells using completely defined conditions on a recombinant E-cadherin substratum

Masato Nagaoka1, Karim Si-Tayeb1, Toshihiro Akaike2 and Stephen A Duncan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA

2 Department of Biomolecular Engineering, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 4259 Nagatsuta-cho, Midori-ku, Yokohama 226-8501, Japan

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:60  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-60

Published: 2 June 2010



To maintain pluripotency of human embryonic stem (huES) cells in feeder-free culture it has been necessary to provide a Matrigel substratum, which is a complex of poorly defined extracellular matrices and growth factors derived from mouse Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm sarcoma cells. Culture of stem cells under ill-defined conditions can inhibit the effectiveness of maintaining cells in a pluripotent state and reduce reproducibility of differentiation protocols. Moreover recent batches of Matrigel have been found to be contaminated with the single stranded RNA virus, Lactate Dehydrogenase Elevating Virus (LDEV), raising concerns regarding the safety of using stem cells that have been cultured on Matrigel in a therapeutic setting. To circumvent such concerns, we attempted to identify a recombinant matrix that could be used as an alternative to Matrigel for the culture of human pluripotent stem cells. huES and human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells were grown on plates coated with a fusion protein consisting of E-cadherin and the IgG Fc domain using mTeSR1 medium.


Cells grown under these conditions maintained similar morphology and growth rate to those grown on Matrigel and retained all pluripotent stem cell features, including an ability to differentiate into multiple cell lineages in teratoma assays. We, therefore, present a culture system that maintains the pluripotency of huES and hiPS cells under completely defined conditions.


We propose that this system should facilitate growth of stem cells using good manufacturing practices (GMP), which will be necessary for the clinical use of pluripotent stem cells and their derivatives.