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EMBO J. 2005 May 4;24(9):1750-61. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

Interplay between the retinoblastoma protein and LEK1 specifies stem cells toward the cardiac lineage.

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CRBM, CNRS FRE 2593, Montpellier, France.


The molecular mechanisms governing early cardiogenesis are still largely unknown. Interestingly, the retinoblastoma protein (Rb), a regulator of cell cycle, has recently emerged as a new candidate regulating cell differentiation. Rb-/- mice die at midgestation and mice lacking E2f1/E2f3, downstream components of the Rb-dependent transcriptional pathway, die of heart failure. To gain insight into the function of Rb pathway in early cardiogenesis, we used Rb-/- embryonic stem (ES) cells differentiating into cardiomyocytes. Rb-/- cells displayed a dramatic delay in expression of cardiac-specific transcription factors and in turn in the whole process of cardiac differentiation. The phenotype of Rb-/- ES cell-derived cardiomyocytes was rescued by reintroducing Rb in cardiac progenitors, by stimulating the BMP-dependent cardiogenic pathway or by overexpression of Nkx2.5. ES cells deficient in the recently identified factor LEK1, a murine homolog of the cardiomyogenic factor 1, or specific disruption of Rb-LEK1 interaction into the nucleus of differentiating ES cells recapitulated the delay in cardiac differentiation of Rb-/- ES cells. Thus, we provide evidence for a novel Rb/LEK1-dependent and BMP-independent transcriptional program, which plays a pivotal role in priming ES cells toward a cardiac fate.

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