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Dev Biol. 1996 Sep 15;178(2):430-45.

Smooth muscle lineage diversity in the chick embryo. Two types of aortic smooth muscle cell differ in growth and receptor-mediated transcriptional responses to transforming growth factor-beta.

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Department of Pathology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA. or


Lineage analysis studies in the avian embryo have identified two types of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the tunica media of large elastic arteries; one that originates within the cardiac neural crest and is ectoderm in origin (Ect) and another that arises from local mesenchyme of mesodermal origin (Mes). To determine if differences in primary embryonic lineage can give rise to SMCs with stable differences in growth and differentiation properties, we isolated Ect and Mes SMCs from the Day 14 chick embryo aorta. We report that despite different primary embryonic origins, Ect and Mes SMCs express nearly identical levels of seven SMC differentiation markers in vitro, consistent with their common smooth muscle developmental fates in vivo. By contrast, Ect SMCs displayed a greater capacity for growth in serum-free medium than Mes SMCs, but only under conditions permitting short-range cell-cell interactions. Most of the peptide growth factors tested that might account for serum-independent growth (PDGF-AA, PDGF-BB, basic FGF, EGF, or activin) stimulated DNA synthesis to similar extents in Ect and Mes SMCs. However, we found dramatic, lineage-dependent differences in SMC responses to transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). Exposure to TGF-beta 1 (0.4 to 400 pmole/liter) consistently increased DNA synthesis in Ect SMCs, whereas in paired cultures of Mes SMCs, TGF-beta 1 was growth inhibitory. In SMC cultures transfected with p3TP-lux, a luciferase reporter controlled by the TGF-beta 1-response elements of the human PAI-1 promoter, TGF-beta 1 (120 pM) produced 12 +/- 2-fold increases in luciferase activity in Ect SMCs and only 3 +/- 1.5-fold increases in Mes SMCs. Analysis of TGF-beta receptor phenotypes by Northern blot, radioligand binding, and crosslinking assays showed that Ect and Mes SMCs expressed similar levels of types I, II, and III TGF-beta receptors. However, using a polyclonal antibody specific for the chick type II TGF-beta receptor subunit, we demonstrate that Mes SMCs produce a fully glycosylated form of this protein while Ect SMCs elaborate only an unglycosylated type II TGF-beta receptor. These results show that Ect and Mes SMCs exhibit lineage-dependent differences in growth and receptor-mediated transcriptional responses to at least one important class of SMC morphogens and growth modifiers, e.g., the TGF-betas. Our findings suggest that different SMC populations within a common vessel wall may respond in lineage-dependent ways to signals that direct formation of the tunica media in the embryo and to factors involved in the progression of vascular disease later in life.

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