TBX18 gene induces adipose-derived stem cells to differentiate into pacemaker-like cells in the myocardial microenvironment

Int J Mol Med. 2016 Nov;38(5):1403-1410. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2016.2736. Epub 2016 Sep 14.


T-box 18 (TBX18) plays a crucial role in the formation and development of the head of the sinoatrial node. The objective of this study was to induce adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) to produce pacemaker-like cells by transfection with the TBX18 gene. A recombinant adenovirus vector carrying the human TBX18 gene was constructed to transfect ADSCs. The ADSCs transfected with TBX18 were considered the TBX18-ADSCs. The control group was the GFP-ADSCs. The transfected cells were co-cultured with neonatal rat ventricular cardiomyocytes (NRVMs). The results showed that the mRNA expression of TBX18 in TBX18-ADSCs was significantly higher than in the control group after 48 h and 7 days. After 7 days of co-culturing with NRVMs, there was no significant difference in the expression of the myocardial marker cardiac troponin I (cTnI) between the two groups. RT-qPCR and western blot analysis showed that the expression of HCN4 was higher in the TBX18-ADSCs than in the GFP-ADSCs. The If current was detected using the whole cell patch clamp technique and was blocked by the specific blocker CsCl. Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSCMs) showed approximately twice the current density compared with the ADSCs. Our study indicated that the TBX18 gene induces ADSCs to differentiate into pacemaker‑like cells in the cardiac microenvironment. Although further experiments are required in order to assess safety and efficacy prior to implementation in clinical practice, this technique may provide new avenues for the clinical therapy of bradycardia.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Microenvironment*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels / genetics
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels / metabolism
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Myocardium / cytology
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / genetics*
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / metabolism
  • Troponin I / genetics
  • Troponin I / metabolism


  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • Tbx18 protein, human
  • Troponin I