The connection of the coronary vasculature to the aorta is one of the last essential steps of cardiac development. However, little is known about the signaling events that promote normal coronary artery formation. The bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway regulates multiple aspects of endothelial cell biology but has not been specifically implicated in coronary vascular development. BMP signaling is tightly regulated by numerous factors, including BMP-binding endothelial cell precursor-derived regulator (BMPER), which can both promote and repress BMP signaling activity. In the embryonic heart, BMPER expression is limited to the endothelial cells and the endothelial-derived cushions, suggesting that BMPER may play a role in coronary vascular development. Histological analysis of BMPER(-/-) embryos at early embryonic stages demonstrates that commencement of coronary plexus differentiation is normal and that endothelial apoptosis and cell proliferation are unaffected in BMPER(-/-) embryos compared with wild-type embryos. However, analysis between embryonic days 15.5-17.5 reveals that, in BMPER(-/-) embryos, coronary arteries are either atretic or connected distal to the semilunar valves. In vitro tubulogenesis assays indicate that isolated BMPER(-/-) endothelial cells have impaired tube formation and migratory ability compared with wild-type endothelial cells, suggesting that these defects may lead to the observed coronary artery anomalies seen in BMPER(-/-) embryos. Additionally, recombinant BMPER promotes wild-type ventricular endothelial migration in a dose-dependent manner, with a low concentration promoting and high concentrations inhibiting migration. Together, these results indicate that BMPER-regulated BMP signaling is critical for coronary plexus remodeling and normal coronary artery development.
Keywords: Angiogenesis; BMP; Coronary vasculature development.
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