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J Biol Chem. 2006 Mar 10;281(10):6442-7. Epub 2005 Dec 28.

Leukemia inhibitory factor induces endothelial differentiation in cardiac stem cells.

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Department of Clinical Evaluation of Medicines and Therapeutics, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Osaka University, Suita City, Osaka, Japan.


The importance of interleukin 6 (IL-6)-related cytokines in cardiac homeostasis has been studied extensively; however, little is known about their biological significance in cardiac stem cells. Here we describe that leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), a member of IL-6-related cytokines, activated STAT3 and ERK1/2 in cardiac Sca-1+ stem cells. LIF stimulation resulted in the induction of endothelial cell-specific genes, including VE-cadherin, Flk-1, and CD31, whereas neither smooth muscle nor cardiac muscle marker genes such as GATA4, GATA6, Nkx-2.5, and calponin were up-regulated. Immunocytochemical examination showed that about 25% of total cells were positively stained with anti-CD31 antibody 14 days after LIF stimulation. Immunofluorescent microscopic analyses identified the Sca-1+ cells that were also positively stained with anti-von Willebrand factor antibody, indicating the differentiating process of Sca-1+ cells into the endothelial cells. IL-6, which did not activate STAT3 and ERK1/2, failed to induce the differentiation of cardiac stem cells into the endothelial cells. In cardiac stem cells, the transduction with dominant negative STAT3 abrogated the LIF-induced endothelial differentiation. And the inhibition of ERK1/2 with the MEK1/2 inhibitor U0126 also prevented the differentiation of Sca-1+ cells into endothelial cells. Thus, both STAT3 and ERK1/2 are required for LIF-mediated endothelial differentiation in cardiac stem cells. Collectively, it is proposed that LIF regulates the commitment of cardiac stem cells into the endothelial cell lineage, contributing to neovascularization in the process of tissue remodeling and/or regeneration.

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