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Dev Biol. 2009 Apr 1;328(1):148-59. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.01.023. Epub 2009 Jan 27.

FGFR-1 is required by epicardium-derived cells for myocardial invasion and correct coronary vascular lineage differentiation.

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  • 1Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Critical steps in coronary vascular formation include the epithelial-mesenchyme transition (EMT) that epicardial cells undergo to become sub-epicardial; the invasion of the myocardium; and the differentiation of coronary lineages. However, the factors controlling these processes are not completely understood. Epicardial and coronary vascular precursors migrate to the avascular heart tube during embryogenesis via the proepicardium (PE). Here, we show that in the quail embryo fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR)-1 is expressed in a spatially and temporally restricted manner in the PE and epicardium-derived cells, including vascular endothelial precursors, and is up-regulated in epicardial cells after EMT. We used replication-defective retroviral vectors to over-express or knock-down FGFR-1 in the PE. FGFR-1 over-expression resulted in increased epicardial EMT. Knock-down of FGFR-1, however, did not inhibit epicardial EMT but greatly compromised the ability of PE progeny to invade the myocardium. The latter could, however, contribute to endothelia and smooth muscle of sub-epicardial vessels. Correct FGFR-1 levels were also important for correct coronary lineage differentiation with, at E12, an increase in the proportion of endothelial cells amongst FGFR-1 over-expressing PE progeny and a decrease in the proportion of smooth muscle cells in antisense FGFR-1 virus-infected PE progeny. Finally, in a heart explant system, constitutive activation of FGFR-1 signaling in epicardial cells resulted in increased delamination from the epicardium, invasion of the sub-epicardium, and invasion of the myocardium. These data reveal novel roles for FGFR-1 signaling in epicardial biology and coronary vascular lineage differentiation, and point to potential new therapeutic avenues.

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