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Cell. 2006 Dec 15;127(6):1137-50. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

Developmental origin of a bipotential myocardial and smooth muscle cell precursor in the mammalian heart.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Despite recent advances in delineating the mechanisms involved in cardiogenesis, cellular lineage specification remains incompletely understood. To explore the relationship between developmental fate and potential, we isolated a cardiac-specific Nkx2.5(+) cell population from the developing mouse embryo. The majority of these cells differentiated into cardiomyocytes and conduction system cells. Some, surprisingly, adopted a smooth muscle fate. To address the clonal origin of these lineages, we isolated Nkx2.5(+) cells from in vitro differentiated murine embryonic stem cells and found approximately 28% of these cells expressed c-kit. These c-kit(+) cells possessed the capacity for long-term in vitro expansion and differentiation into both cardiomyocytes and smooth muscle cells from a single cell. We confirmed these findings by isolating c-kit(+)Nkx2.5(+) cells from mouse embryos and demonstrated their capacity for bipotential differentiation in vivo. Taken together, these results support the existence of a common precursor for cardiovascular lineages in the mammalian heart.

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