[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family of transcription factors orchestrates cell-fate specification, commitment and differentiation in multiple cell lineages during development. Here, we describe the role of a bHLH transcription factor, Tcf21 (epicardin/Pod1/capsulin), in specification of the cardiac fibroblast lineage. In the developing heart, the epicardium constitutes the primary source of progenitor cells that form two cell lineages: coronary vascular smooth muscle cells (cVSMCs) and cardiac fibroblasts. Currently, there is a debate regarding whether the specification of these lineages occurs early in the formation of the epicardium or later after the cells have entered the myocardium. Lineage tracing using a tamoxifen-inducible Cre expressed from the Tcf21 locus demonstrated that the majority of Tcf21-expressing epicardial cells are committed to the cardiac fibroblast lineage prior to initiation of epicardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Furthermore, Tcf21 null hearts fail to form cardiac fibroblasts, and lineage tracing of the null cells showed their inability to undergo EMT. This is the first report of a transcription factor essential for the development of cardiac fibroblasts. We demonstrate a unique role for Tcf21 in multipotent epicardial progenitors, prior to the process of EMT that is essential for cardiac fibroblast development.
Development 05/2012; 139(12):2139-49. · 6.60 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The epicardium is the primary source of coronary vascular smooth muscle cells (cVSMCs) and fibroblasts that reside in the compact myocardium. To form these epicardial-derived cells (EPDCs), the epicardium undergoes the process of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Although several signaling pathways have been identified that disrupt EMT, no pathway has been reported that restricts this developmental process. Here, we identify neurofibromin 1 (Nf1) as a key mediator of epicardial EMT. To determine the function of Nf1 during epicardial EMT and the formation of epicardial derivatives, cardiac fibroblasts and cVSMCs, we generated mice with a tissue-specific deletion of Nf1 in the epicardium. We found that mutant epicardial cells transitioned more readily to mesenchymal cells in vitro and in vivo. The mesothelial epicardium lost epithelial gene expression and became more invasive. Using lineage tracing of EPDCs, we found that the process of EMT occurred earlier in Nf1 mutant hearts, with an increase in epicardial cells entering the compact myocardium. Moreover, loss of Nf1 caused increased EPDC proliferation and resulted in more cardiac fibroblasts and cVSMCs. Finally, we were able to partially reverse the excessive EMT caused by loss of Nf1 by disrupting Pdgfrα expression in the epicardium. Conversely, Nf1 activation was able to inhibit PDGF-induced epicardial EMT. Our results demonstrate a regulatory role for Nf1 during epicardial EMT and provide insights into the susceptibility of patients with disrupted NF1 signaling to cardiovascular disease.
Development 04/2012; 139(11):2040-9. · 6.60 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In early heart development, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor expression in the heart ventricles is restricted to the epicardium. Previously, we showed that PDGFRβ is required for coronary vascular smooth muscle cell (cVSMC) development, but a role for PDGFRα has not been identified. Therefore, we investigated the combined and independent roles of these receptors in epicardial development.
To understand the contribution of PDGF receptors in epicardial development and epicardial-derived cell fate determination.
By generating mice with epicardial-specific deletion of the PDGF receptors, we found that epicardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) was defective. Sox9, an SRY-related transcription factor, was reduced in PDGF receptor-deficient epicardial cells, and overexpression of Sox9 restored epicardial migration, actin reorganization, and EMT gene expression profiles. The failure of epicardial EMT resulted in hearts that lacked epicardial-derived cardiac fibroblasts and cVSMC. Loss of PDGFRα resulted in a specific disruption of cardiac fibroblast development, whereas cVSMC development was unperturbed.
Signaling through both PDGF receptors is necessary for epicardial EMT and formation of epicardial-mesenchymal derivatives. PDGF receptors also have independent functions in the development of specific epicardial-derived cell fates.
Circulation Research 06/2011; 108(12):e15-26. · 11.86 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tcf21 is a Class II bHLH family member with essential roles in the formation of the lungs, kidneys, gonads, spleen, and heart. Here, we report the utility of a mouse line with targeted insertion of a tamoxifen-inducible Cre recombinase, MerCreMer at the Tcf21 locus. This mouse line will permit the inducible expression of Cre recombinase in Tcf21-expressing cells. Using ROSA26 reporter mice, we show that Cre recombinase is specifically and robustly activated in multiple Tcf21-expressing tissues during embryonic and postnatal development. The expression profile in the kidney is particularly dynamic with the ability to cause recombination in mesangial cells at one time of induction and podocytes at another time. These features make the Tcf21-driven inducible Cre line (Tcf21(iCre) ) a valuable genetic tool for spatiotemporal gene function analysis and lineage tracing of cells in the heart, kidney, cranial muscle, and gonads.