Int. J. Dev. Biol. In Press
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.210167pk
© UPV/EHU Press

Vascular Endothelial (VE)-Cadherin-mediated Adherens Junctions involvement in cardiovascular progenitor cell specification

Violetta Maltabe and Panos Kouklis*

Laboratory of Biology, Department of Medicine, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece and Division of Biomedical Research, Foundation for Research and Technology, Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Ioannina, Greece

ABSTRACT Vascular Endothelial cadherin, a type II classical cadherin, is the major cadherin molecule participating in homotypic cell-cell adhesion structures between endothelial cells. It associates with cytoplasmic and membrane cytoskeletal elements to form endothelial adherens junctions (AJs), pivotal in regulating endothelial barrier function in the adult. VE-cadherin-mediated AJs are also involved in signaling via direct or indirect associations with receptors. The generation of mutant animals, especially mice and zebrafish, revealed many details about the role of VE-cadherin-mediated AJs in cardiovascular development. In general, VE-cadherin knockout (KO) in mice is embryonic lethal due to severe cardiovascular defects and major signaling pathways as well as vascular formation cues were discovered in developing endothelium. However, there is little information regarding AJs formation and their components in cardiovascular progenitors. We have characterized in detail the activation pattern of mouse VE-cadherin promoter (Pvec) in a mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) differentiation system in vitro. Surprisingly, we found that it is activated transiently in cardiac progenitors that belong to the second heart field. Based on Pvec activation we isolated this population in vitro and found that it can self-renew by induction of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Next, we successfully established cell culture conditions that allowed self-renewal of this population that consists of endothelial and cardiac progenitors. Transplantation in rat hearts showed that they can survive and differentiate to cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells. Although further characterization is needed, these cells can be used in cell-based therapies as well as in drug screening.

Keywords:

Adherens Junctions, Cardiovascular Progenitors, VE-cadherin

*Corresponding author e-mail: pkouklis@uoi.gr