In vivo and in vitro analysis of the vasculogenic potential of avian proepicardial and epicardial cells

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Abstract

Coronary vessel formation is a special case in the context of embryonic vascular development. A major part of the coronary cellular precursors (endothelial, smooth muscle, and fibroblastic cells) derive from the proepicardium and the epicardium in what can be regarded as a late event of angioblastic and smooth muscle cell differentiation. Thus, coronary morphogenesis is dependent on the epithelial–mesenchymal transformation of the proepicardium and the epicardium. In this study, we present several novel observations about the process of coronary vasculogenesis in avian embryos, namely: (1) The proepicardium displays a high vasculogenic potential, both in vivo (as shown by heterotopic transplants) and in vitro, which is modulated by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor signals; (2) Proepicardial and epicardial cells co-express receptors for platelet-derived growth factor-BB and VEGF; (3) Coronary angioblasts (found all through the epicardial, subepicardial, and compact myocardial layers) express the Wilms' tumor associated transcription factor and the retinoic acid-synthesizing enzyme retinaldehyde-dehydrogenase-2, two markers of the coelomic epithelium involved in coronary endothelium development. All these results contribute to the development of our knowledge on the vascular potential of proepicardial/epicardial cells, the existent interrelationships between the differentiating coronary cell lineages, and the molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of coronary morphogenesis. Developmental Dynamics 235:1014–1026, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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