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Dev Biol. 2010 Feb 15;338(2):127-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.11.030. Epub 2009 Dec 1.

Wnt signaling in heart valve development and osteogenic gene induction.

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Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, Cincinnati Children's Medical Center, ML 7020, 240 Albert Sabin Way, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.


Wnt signaling mediated by beta-catenin has been implicated in early endocardial cushion development, but its roles in later stages of heart valve maturation and homeostasis have not been identified. Multiple Wnt ligands and pathway genes are differentially expressed during heart valve development. At E12.5, Wnt2 is expressed in cushion mesenchyme, whereas Wnt4 and Wnt9b are predominant in overlying endothelial cells. At E17.5, both Wnt3a and Wnt7b are expressed in the remodeling atrioventricular (AV) and semilunar valves. In addition, the TOPGAL Wnt reporter transgene is active throughout the developing AV and semilunar valves at E16.5, with more localized expression in the stratified valve leaflets after birth. In chicken embryo aortic valves, genes characteristic of osteogenic cell lineages including periostin, osteonectin, and Id2 are expressed specifically in the collagen-rich fibrosa layer at E14. Treatment of E14 aortic valve interstitial cells (VICs) in culture with osteogenic media results in increased expression of multiple genes associated with bone formation. Treatment of VIC with Wnt3a leads to nuclear localization of beta-catenin and induction of periostin and matrix gla protein but does not induce genes associated with later stages of osteogenesis. Together, these studies provide evidence for Wnt signaling as a regulator of endocardial cushion maturation as well as valve leaflet stratification, homeostasis, and pathogenesis.

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