Primary and immortalized mouse epicardial cells undergo differentiation in response to TGFβ



Cells derived from the epicardium are required for coronary vessel development. Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) induces loss of epithelial character and smooth muscle differentiation in chick epicardial cells. Here, we show that epicardial explants from embryonic day (E) 11.5 mouse embryos incubated with TGFβ1 or TGFβ2 lose epithelial character and undergo smooth muscle differentiation. To further study TGFβ Signaling, we generated immortalized mouse epicardial cells. Cells from E10.5, 11.5, and 13.5 formed tightly packed epithelium and expressed the epicardial marker Wilm's tumor 1 (WT1). TGFβ induced the loss of zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and the appearance of SM22α and calponin consistent with smooth muscle differentiation. Inhibition of activin receptor-like kinase (ALK) 5 or p160 rho kinase activity prevented the effects of TGFβ while inhibition of p38 mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase did not. These data demonstrate that TGFβ induces epicardial cell differentiation and that immortalized epicardial cells provide a suitable model for differentiation. Developmental Dynamics 237:366–376, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.