• Embryonal carcinoma;
  • Oxytocin;
  • Nitric oxide;
  • Fluorescent protein reporter genes;
  • In vitro differentiation;
  • Myogenesis


Oxytocin (OT), a hormone recently identified in the heart, induces embryonic and cardiac somatic stem cells to differentiate into cardiomyocytes (CM), possibly through nitric oxide (NO). We verified this hypothesis using P19 cells and P19 Clone 6 derivatives expressing a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter linked to cardiac myosin light chain-2v promoter. OT treatment of these cells induced beating cell colonies that were fully inhibited by N,G-nitro-l-arginine-methyl-ester (l-NAME), an inhibitor of NO synthases (NOS), partially reduced by 1400W, an inhibitor of inducible NOS, and ODQ, an inhibitor of NO-sensitive guanylyl cyclases. The NO generator S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP) reversed the l-NAME inhibition of cell beating and GFP expression. In OT-induced cells, l-NAME significantly decreased transcripts of the cardiac markers Nkx2.5, MEF2c, α-myosin heavy chain, and less, GATA4, endothelial NOS, and atrial natriuretic peptide, as well as the skeletal myocyte (SM) marker myogenin. Image analysis of OT-induced P19Cl6-GFP cells revealed ventricular CM coexpressing sarcomeric α-actinin and GFP, with some cells exclusively expressing α-actinin, most likely of the SM phenotype. The OT-mediated production of CM, but not SM, was diminished by l-NAME. In P19 cells, exogenously added OT stimulated the expression of its own transcript, which was reduced in the presence of l-NAME. Surprisingly, l-NAME alone decreased the expression of anti-stage specific embryonic antigen-1 marker of the undifferentiated state and induced some beating colonies as well as GFP in P19Cl6-GFP cells. Collectively, our data suggest that the pleiotropic action of NO is involved in the initiation of CM differentiation of P19 cells and maintenance of their undifferentiated state.