The epicardium contributes both multi-lineage descendants and paracrine factors to the heart during cardiogenesis and cardiac repair, underscoring its potential for use in cardiac regenerative medicine. Yet little is known about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate human epicardial development and regeneration. Here, we show that the temporal modulation of canonical Wnt signalling is sufficient for epicardial induction from six different human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) lines, including a WT1-2A-eGFP knock-in reporter line, under chemically defined, xeno-free conditions. We also show that treatment with transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β)-signalling inhibitors permitted long-term expansion of the hPSC-derived epicardial cells, resulting in more than 25 population doublings of WT1+ cells in homogenous monolayers. The hPSC-derived epicardial cells were similar to primary epicardial cells both in vitro and in vivo, as determined by morphological and functional assays, including RNA sequencing. Our findings have implications for the understanding of self-renewal mechanisms of the epicardium and for epicardial regeneration using cellular or small-molecule therapies.
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We thank D.A. Roenneburg and X. Wang for their technical support. We also thank members of the Palecek group for critical discussion of the manuscript. This work was supported by NIH grant EB007534 (S.P.P.), NSF grant 1547225 (S.P.P.), and a fellowship from the University of Wisconsin Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center (X.B.).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Supplementary figures and tables, and movie legends. (PDF 3818 kb)
Non-contracting hESC-derived pro-epicardial cells at day 12. (AVI 18384 kb)
Spontaneously contracting hESC-derived cardiomyocytes at day 12. (AVI 17886 kb)
Spontaneously contracting hESC-derived cardiomyocytes at day 12. (AVI 9065 kb)
Non-contracting iPSC-derived pro-epicardial cells at day 12. (AVI 22676 kb)
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Bao, X., Lian, X., Hacker, T. et al. Long-term self-renewing human epicardial cells generated from pluripotent stem cells under defined xeno-free conditions. Nat Biomed Eng 1, 0003 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-016-0003
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