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Development. 2006 Mar;133(6):1013-22. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

Somite-derived cells replace ventral aortic hemangioblasts and provide aortic smooth muscle cells of the trunk.

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Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris6, CNRS UMR7622, Laboratoire de Biologie du Développement, Bat C, 6 étage, Case 24, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France.


We have previously shown that endothelial cells of the aortic floor give rise to hematopoietic cells, revealing the existence of an aortic hemangioblast. It has been proposed that the restriction of hematopoiesis to the aortic floor is based on the existence of two different and complementary endothelial lineages that form the vessel: one originating from the somite would contribute to the roof and sides, another from the splanchnopleura would contribute to the floor. Using quail/chick orthotopic transplantations of paraxial mesoderm, we have traced the distribution of somite-derived endothelial cells during aortic hematopoiesis. We show that the aortic endothelium undergoes two successive waves of remodeling by somitic cells: one when the aortae are still paired, during which the initial roof and sides of the vessels are renewed; and a second, associated to aortic hematopoiesis, in which the hemogenic floor is replaced by somite endothelial cells. This floor thus appears as a temporary structure, spent out and replaced. In addition, the somite contributes to smooth muscle cells of the aorta. In vivo lineage tracing experiments with non-replicative retroviral vectors showed that endothelial cells do not give rise to smooth muscle cells. However, in vitro, purified endothelial cells acquire smooth muscle cells characteristics. Taken together, these data point to the crucial role of the somite in shaping the aorta and also give an explanation for the short life of aortic hematopoiesis.

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