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Dev Biol. 1999 Aug 1;212(1):243-54.

Slug is a mediator of epithelial-mesenchymal cell transformation in the developing chicken heart.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, 85724, USA.


An epithelial-mesenchymal cell transformation occurs during the development of the endocardial cushions in the atrioventricular (AV) canal of the heart. We hypothesized that the transcription factor Slug is required for this epithelial-mesenchymal cell transformation since Slug is required for similar transformations during gastrulation and neural crest differentiation in chicken embryos. We found by RT-PCR and immunostaining that the temporal and spatial localization of Slug in the embryonic chicken heart is consistent with a role for Slug in endocardial cushion formation. Moreover, we found that Slug expression by AV canal endothelial cells is induced by a signal provided by AV canal myocardium. Slug appears to be required for epithelial-mesenchymal cell transformation in the chicken heart since treatment of AV canal explants with antisense Slug oligodeoxynucleotides inhibited mesenchymal cell formation in vitro. Antisense Slug oligodeoxynucleotides prevented endothelial cell-cell separation, suggesting that Slug acts early in the transformation pathway.

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