Abstract 1451: Hyperpolarization Induces Differentiation Of Human Cardiomyocyte Progenitor Cells
Background: Recently, we have isolated cardiomyocyte progenitor cells (hCMPCs) from human fetal and adult hearts. These cells differentiate into spontaneously beating cardiomyocytes when stimulated with 5-azacytidine. Subsequent stimulation by TGFβ enhances differentiation efficiency to nearly 100%. The underlying molecular mechanisms mediating this cardiomyogenic differentiation are not understood. In skeletal myoblasts, hyperpolarization-mediated activation of calcineurin signaling is crucial for myogenic differentiation. In hCMPCs, whole-cell patch clamp recordings showed a hyperpolarized membrane potential after stimulation with TGFβ or BMP. We hypothesized that hyperpolarization and calcineurin signaling regulate cardiomyogenic differentiation of hCMPCs after TGFβ stimulation.
Methods & Results: To test whether hyperpolarization initiates cardiomyogenic differentiation, hyperpolarization was induced by 1) co-culture of hCMPCs with HEK 293 cells overexpressing a Kir2.1GFP fusion protein (KWGF cells) or 2) culture of hCMPCs overnight in medium containing low potassium concentrations. During co-culture, Lucifer Yellow dye injection in KWGF cells spread to neighboring hCMPCs, indicating cellular coupling. This resulted in stable hyperpolarization in hCMPCs, which could be blocked by addition of the gap junction inhibitor halothane. After two weeks, qPCR analysis revealed increased expression of cardiac sarcomeric genes in the hCMPCs in a dose-dependent manner. Induction of hyperpolarization by culturing hCMPCs with low potassium concentrations also resulted in increased expression of cardiac genes and the formation of spontaneously beating cells. Immunofluorescence staining revealed striated patterns of troponin I and α-actinin. Interestingly, hyperpolarization also increased intracellular calcium levels in hCMPCs, as measured by ratiometric imaging of indo-1 fluorescence, and, subsequently, a time-dependent increase in NFAT-Luciferase reporter activity, indicating activation of the calcineurin pathway.
Conclusion: TGFβ and/or BMP-mediated hyperpolarization of hCMPCs induces calcineurin-mediated cardiomyogenic differentiation.