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Characterizing the effects of hypoxia on the metabolic profiles of mesenchymal stromal cells derived from three tissue sources using chemical isotope labeling liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry


Microenvironmental factors such as oxygen concentration mediate key effects on the biology of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). Herein, we performed an in-depth characterization of the metabolic behavior of MSCs derived from the placenta, umbilical cord, and adipose tissue (termed hPMSCs, UC-MSCs, and AD-MSCs, respectively) at physiological (hypoxic; 5% oxygen [O2]) and standardized (normoxic; 21% O2) O2 concentrations using chemical isotope labeling liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. 12C- and 13C-isotope dansylation (Dns) labeling was used to analyze the amine/phenol submetabolome, and 2574 peak pairs or metabolites were detected and quantified, from which 52 metabolites were positively identified using a library of 275 Dns-metabolite standards; 2189 metabolites were putatively identified. Next, we identified six metabolites using the Dns library, as well as 14 hypoxic biomarkers from the human metabolome database out of 96 altered metabolites. Ultimately, metabolic pathway analyses were performed to evaluate the associated pathways. Based on pathways identified using the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes, we identified significant changes in the metabolic profiles of MSCs in response to different O2 concentrations. These results collectively suggest that O2 concentration has the strongest influence on hPMSCs metabolic characteristics, and that 5% O2 promotes arginine and proline metabolism in hPMSCs and UC-MSCs but decreases gluconeogenesis (alanine-glucose) rates in hPMSCs and AD-MSCs. These changes indicate that MSCs derived from different sources exhibit distinct metabolic profiles.

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Mesenchymal stromal cells


Human placental mesenchymal stromal cells


Umbilical cord-derived MSCs


Adipose tissue-derived MSCs


Chemical isotope labeling liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry


Ultra performance liquid chromatography




Human metabolome database

Met PA:

Metabolic pathway analysis


Principal component analysis


Orthogonal partial least squares discriminant analysis


Quality control


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We thank the staff and patients of the First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University for providing placenta, umbilical cord, and adipose tissue samples.

Funding sources

This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81620108028, 81971756) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2016YFA0101001).

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Correspondence to Hongcui Cao.

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Pan, Q., Wang, D., Chen, D. et al. Characterizing the effects of hypoxia on the metabolic profiles of mesenchymal stromal cells derived from three tissue sources using chemical isotope labeling liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Cell Tissue Res (2019).

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  • Placenta-derived MSCs
  • Umbilical cord-derived MSCs
  • Adipose-derived MSCs
  • Metabolomics
  • Hypoxia