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Circ Res. 2000 Apr 14;86(7):787-94.

Leukemia inhibitory factor modulates cardiogenesis in embryoid bodies in opposite fashions.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry, Medical Faculty, University of Vienna, Austria.


Cardiogenesis is a multistep process regulated by a hierarchy of factors defining each developmental stage of the heart. One of these factors, leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), a member of the interleukin-6 family of cytokines, is expressed in embryonic and neonatal cardiomyocytes and induces cardiomyocyte hypertrophy. Many aspects of embryogenesis are faithfully recapitulated during in vitro differentiation of embryonic stem cells in embryoid bodies. We exploited this model to study effects of growth factors on commitment and differentiation of cardiomyocytes and on maintenance of their phenotype. We identified LIF as a factor affecting commitment and differentiation of cardiomyocytes in an opposite manner. Diffusible LIF inhibited mesoderm formation and hampered commitment of cardiomyocytes. Lack of both the diffusible and matrix-bound isoforms of LIF in lif-/- embryoid bodies did not interfere with commitment, but it severely suppressed early differentiation of cardiomyocytes. Onset of differentiation was rescued by very low concentrations of diffusible LIF; however, consecutive differentiation was attenuated in a concentration-dependent manner by diffusible LIF both in wild-type and lif-/- cardiomyocytes. Differentiation of cardiomyocytes was severely hampered but not completely blocked in lifr-/- embryoid bodies, suggesting additional, LIF-receptor ligand independent pathways for commitment and differentiation of cardiomyocytes. At the fully differentiated state, both paracrine and autocrine LIF promoted proliferation and increased longevity of cardiomyocytes. These findings suggest that both paracrine and autocrine and both diffusible and matrix-bound isoforms of LIF contribute to the modulation of cardiogenesis in a subtle, opposite, and developmental stage-dependent manner and control proliferation and maintenance of the differentiated state of cardiomyocytes.

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