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Stem Cells International
Volume 2016, Article ID 1580701, 16 pages
Research Article

Lovastatin Decreases the Expression of CD133 and Influences the Differentiation Potential of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Tartu, Riia 23, 51010 Tartu, Estonia

Received 8 March 2016; Accepted 18 April 2016

Academic Editor: Mario Cioce

Copyright © 2016 Ade Kallas-Kivi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The lipophilic statin lovastatin decreases cholesterol synthesis and is a safe and effective treatment for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Growing evidence points at antitumor potential of lovastatin. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanism of lovastatin function in different cell types is critical to effective therapy design. In this study, we investigated the effects of lovastatin on the differentiation potential of human embryonic stem (hES) cells (H9 cell line). Multiparameter flow cytometric assay was used to detect changes in the expression of transcription factors characteristic of hES cells. We found that lovastatin treatment delayed NANOG downregulation during ectodermal and endodermal differentiation. Likewise, expression of ectodermal (SOX1 and OTX2) and endodermal (GATA4 and FOXA2) markers was higher in treated cells. Exposure of hES cells to lovastatin led to a minor decrease in the expression of SSEA-3 and a significant reduction in CD133 expression. Treated cells also formed fewer embryoid bodies than control cells. By analyzing hES with and without CD133, we discovered that CD133 expression is required for proper formation of embryoid bodies. In conclusion, lovastatin reduced the heterogeneity of hES cells and impaired their differentiation potential.