The chemokine CXCL12 and its receptor CXCR4 have many functions during embryonic and post-natal life. We used murine models to investigate the role of CXCL12/CXCR4 signaling in cardiac development and found that embryonic Cxcl12-null hearts lacked intra-ventricular coronary arteries (CAs) and exhibited absent or misplaced CA stems. We traced the origin of this phenotype to defects in the early stages of CA stem formation. CA stems derive from the peritruncal plexus, an encircling capillary network that invades the wall of the developing aorta. We showed that CXCL12 is present at high levels in the outflow tract, while peritruncal endothelial cells (ECs) express CXCR4. In the absence of CXCL12, ECs were abnormally localized and impaired in their ability to anastomose with the aortic lumen. We propose that CXCL12 is required for connection of peritruncal plexus ECs to the aortic endothelium and thus plays a vital role in CA formation.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.