Rationale: Stage specific embryonic antigen 1+ (SSEA1+) cells have been described as the most primitive mesenchymal progenitor cell in the bone marrow. Cardiac injury mobilizes SSEA1+ cells into the peripheral blood but their in vivo function has not been characterized.
Objective: We generated animals with chimeric bone marrow to determine the fate and function of bone marrow SSEA1+ cells in response to acute cardiac pressure overload.
Methods and results: Lethally irradiated mice were transplanted with normal bone marrow where the wild-type SSEA1+ cells were replaced with green fluorescent protein (GFP) SSEA1+ cells. Cardiac injury was induced by trans-aortic constriction (TAC). We identified significant GFP+ cell engraftment into the myocardium after TAC. Bone marrow GFP+ SSEA1 derived cells acquired markers of endothelial lineage, but did not express markers of c-kit+ cardiac progenitor cells. The function of bone marrow SSEA1+ cells after TAC was determined by transplanting lethally irradiated mice with bone marrow depleted of SSEA1+ cells (SSEA1-BM). The cardiac function of SSEA1-BM mice declined at a greater rate after TAC compared to their complete bone marrow transplant counterparts and was associated with decreased bone marrow cell engraftment and greater vessel rarefication in the myocardium.
Conclusions: These results provide evidence for the recruitment of endogenous bone marrow SSEA1+ cells to the myocardium after TAC. We demonstrate that, in vivo, bone marrow SSEA1+ cells have the differentiation potential to acquire endothelial lineage markers. We also show that bone marrow SSEA1+ deficiency is associated with a reduced compensatory capacity to cardiac pressure overload, suggesting their importance in cardiac homeostasis. These data demonstrate that bone marrow SSEA1+ cells are critical for sustaining vascular density and cardiac repair to pressure overload.