Misregulation of SDF1-CXCR4 signaling impairs early cardiac neural crest cell migration leading to conotruncal defects

Circ Res. 2013 Aug 16;113(5):505-16. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.113.301333. Epub 2013 Jul 9.


Rationale: Cardiac neural crest cells (NCs) contribute to heart morphogenesis by giving rise to a variety of cell types from mesenchyme of the outflow tract, ventricular septum, and semilunar valves to neurons of the cardiac ganglia and smooth muscles of the great arteries. Failure in cardiac NC development results in outflow and ventricular septation defects commonly observed in congenital heart diseases. Cardiac NCs derive from the vagal neural tube, which also gives rise to enteric NCs that colonize the gut; however, so far, molecular mechanisms segregating these 2 populations and driving cardiac NC migration toward the heart have remained elusive.

Objective: Stromal-derived factor-1 (SDF1) is a chemokine that mediates oriented migration of multiple embryonic cells and mice deficient for Sdf1 or its receptors, Cxcr4 and Cxcr7, exhibit ventricular septum defects, raising the possibility that SDF1 might selectively drive cardiac NC migration toward the heart via a chemotactic mechanism.

Methods and results: We show in the chick embryo that Sdf1 expression is tightly coordinated with the progression of cardiac NCs expressing Cxcr4. Cxcr4 loss-of-function causes delayed migration and enhanced death of cardiac NCs, whereas Sdf1 misexpression results in their diversion from their normal pathway, indicating that SDF1 acts as a chemoattractant for cardiac NCs. These alterations of SDF1 signaling result in severe cardiovascular defects.

Conclusions: These data identify Sdf1 and its receptor Cxcr4 as candidate genes responsible for cardiac congenital pathologies in human.

Keywords: SDF1 chemokine; cardiac development; cardiac neural crest; conotruncal defects genes; heart defects, congenital; migration; receptors, CXCR4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / biosynthesis
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / deficiency
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / genetics
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / physiology*
  • Chemotaxis
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chimera
  • Coturnix / embryology
  • Ectoderm / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Heart / embryology
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / genetics
  • Heart Septal Defects, Ventricular / physiopathology*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Neural Crest / pathology*
  • Neural Tube / cytology
  • Neural Tube / transplantation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Organogenesis
  • Receptors, CXCR / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, CXCR / genetics
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / deficiency
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / genetics
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Species Specificity
  • Transfection


  • CXCR4 protein, mouse
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Cmkor1 protein, mouse
  • Cxcl12 protein, mouse
  • MicroRNAs
  • Receptors, CXCR
  • Receptors, CXCR4