Cells 2012 Dec 10;1(4):1197-224. Epub 2012 Dec 10.
Department of Ob/Gyn, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit MI, 48201, USA.
Cellular stress is the basis of a dose-dependent continuum of responses leading to adaptive health or pathogenesis. For all cells, stress leads to reduction in macromolecular synthesis by shared pathways and tissue and stress-specific homeostatic mechanisms. For stem cells during embryonic, fetal, and placental development, higher exposures of stress lead to decreased anabolism, macromolecular synthesis and cell proliferation. Coupled with diminished stem cell proliferation is a stress-induced differentiation which generates minimal necessary function by producing more differentiated product/cell. This compensatory differentiation is accompanied by a second strategy to insure organismal survival as multipotent and pluripotent stem cells differentiate into the lineages in their repertoire. During stressed differentiation, the first lineage in the repertoire is increased and later lineages are suppressed, thus prioritized differentiation occurs. Compensatory and prioritized differentiation is regulated by at least two types of stress enzymes. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) which mediates loss of nuclear potency factors and stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) that does not. SAPK mediates an increase in the first essential lineage and decreases in later lineages in placental stem cells. The clinical significance of compensatory and prioritized differentiation is that stem cell pools are depleted and imbalanced differentiation leads to gestational diseases and long term postnatal pathologies.