The commitment of pluripotent stem cells to the cardiac lineage has enormous potential in regenerative medicine interventions for several cardiac diseases. Thus, it is necessary to understand and regulate this differentiation process for potential clinical application. In this study, we developed defined conditions with chemical inducers for effective cardiac lineage commitment and elucidated the mechanism for high-efficiency differentiation. First, we designed a robust reporter-based platform to screen chemical inducers of cardiac differentiation in the mouse P19 teratocarcinoma cell line. Using this system, we identified two natural alkaloids, lupinine and ursinoic acid, which enhanced cardiomyocyte differentiation of P19 cells in terms of beating colony numbers with respect to oxytocin, and confirmed their activity in mouse embryonic stem cells. By analyzing the expression of key markers, we found that this enhancement can be attributed to the early and rapid induction of the Wnt signaling pathway. We also found that these natural compounds could not only supersede the action of the Wnt3a ligand but also had a very quick response time, allowing them to act as efficient cardiac mesoderm inducers that subsequently promoted cardiomyocyte differentiation. Thus, this study offers a way to develop chemical-based differentiation strategy for high-efficiency cardiac lineage commitment, which has an advantage over currently available methods with complex medium composition and parameters. Furthermore, it also provides an opportunity to pinpoint the key molecular mechanisms pivotal to the cardiac differentiation process, which are necessary to design an efficient strategy for cardiomyocyte differentiation.
Keywords: Wnt; cardiomyocyte; differentiation; embryonic stem cell; natural compounds; p19 cell.