To reveal the molecular mechanisms involved in cardiac lineage determination and differentiation, we quantified the proteome of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs), and cardiomyocytes during a time course of directed differentiation by label-free quantitative proteomics. This approach correctly identified known stage-specific markers of cardiomyocyte differentiation, including SRY-box2 (SOX2), GATA binding protein 4 (GATA4), and myosin heavy chain 6 (MYH6). This led us to determine whether our proteomic screen could reveal previously unidentified mediators of heart development. We identified Disabled 2 (DAB2) as one of the most dynamically expressed proteins in hESCs, CPCs, and cardiomyocytes. We used clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) mutagenesis in zebrafish to assess whether DAB2 plays a functional role during cardiomyocyte differentiation. We found that deletion of Dab2 in zebrafish embryos led to a significant reduction in cardiomyocyte number and increased endogenous WNT/β-catenin signaling. Furthermore, the Dab2-deficient defects in cardiomyocyte number could be suppressed by overexpression of dickkopf 1 (DKK1), an inhibitor of WNT/β-catenin signaling. Thus, inhibition of WNT/β-catenin signaling by DAB2 is essential for establishing the correct number of cardiomyocytes in the developing heart. Our work demonstrates that quantifying the proteome of human stem cells can identify previously unknown developmental regulators.
Keywords: WNT/β-catenin; cardiomyocyte; embryonic stem cell; quantitative proteomics; zebrafish.