Hakuno D, Takahashi T, Lammerding J, Lee RT. 2005. Focal adhesion kinase signaling regulates cardiogenesis of embryonic stem cells. The Journal of biological chemistry. 280(47):39534-44. Pubmed: 16157602


The signaling steps that induce cardiac differentiation in embryonic stem (ES) cells are incompletely understood. We examined the effect of adhesion signaling including Src and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) on cardiogenesis in mouse ES cells using alpha-myosin heavy chain promoter-driven enhanced green fluorescent protein or luciferase as reporters. Cardiac transcription factors including Nkx2.5 and Tbx5 mRNA were first expressed at day 4 in hanging drop embryoid bodies, and adhesion of embryoid bodies to surfaces at or before that day strongly inhibited differentiation of ES cells to cardiomyocytes. Since adhesion signaling could suppress cardiogenesis through Src kinases, embryoid bodies were exposed to the small molecule PP2, known as a Src family kinase inhibitor. PP2 during embryoid body adhesion dramatically increased cardiomyocyte differentiation and decreased mRNA expression of neuronal cellular adhesion molecule and alpha-fetoprotein, neuroectodermal, and endodermal markers, respectively. Surprisingly, although there was an interaction between Src and FAK in cardiogenesis, the procardiogenic effect of PP2 appeared incompletely explained by Src kinase inhibition, since another Src family kinase inhibitor, SU6656, failed to induce cardiogenesis. Instead, PP2 specifically inhibited adhesion-induced FAK phosphorylation. In ES cells stably expressing FAK-related nonkinase, which functions as a dominant negative FAK, cell migration from embryoid bodies was inhibited, whereas alpha-myosin heavy chain expression and myosin-stained cardiomyocytes were increased, suggesting that reducing cell motility may contribute to cardiogenesis. These data indicate that FAK is a key regulator of cardiogenesis in mouse ES cells and that FAK signaling within embryoid bodies can direct stem cell lineage commitment.

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Rich Lee seeks to understand heart failure and metabolic diseases that accompany human aging, and translate that understanding into therapies. Lee is an active clinician, regularly treating patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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