Matrigel inhibits elongation and drives endoderm differentiation in aggregates of mouse embryonic stem cells
17 April 2023
Modelling peri-implantation mammalian development using the self-organising properties of stem cells is a rapidly growing field that has advanced our understanding of cell fate decisions occurring in the early embryo. Matrigel, a basement membrane matrix, is a critical substrate used in various protocols for its efficacy in promoting stem cell growth and self-organization. However, its role in driving stem cell lineage commitment, and whether this effect is driven by biochemical or physical cues is not being clearly defined. Here, we grow embryoid bodies in suspension, Matrigel, and agarose, an inert polysaccharide, to attempt to decouple the physical and biochemical roles of Matrigel and better understand how it drives stem cell differentiation. We show that stem cell aggregates in Matrigel are hindered in their ability to elongate compared to those grown in agarose or in suspension indicating that prohibitive role in self-organisation. Aggregates in Matrigel are also driven to differentiate into endoderm with ectoderm differentiation inhibited. Furthermore, these effects are not due to the physical presence of Matrigel as the same effects are not witnessed in aggregates grown in agarose. Our results thus indicate that Matrigel has a significant and complex effect on the differentiation and morphology of embryoid bodies.