Background and objectives: Pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells represent a perfect model system for the investigation of early developmental processes. Besides their differentiation into derivatives of the three primary germ layers, they can also be differentiated into derivatives of the 'fourth' germ layer, the neural crest (NC). Due to its multipotency, extensive migration and outstanding capacity to generate a remarkable number of different cell types, the NC plays a key role in early developmental processes. Cardiac neural crest (CNC) cells are a subpopulation of the NC, which are of crucial importance for precise cardiovascular and pharyngeal glands' development. CNC-associated malformations are rare, but always severe and life-threatening. Appropriate cell models could help to unravel underlying pathomechanisms and to develop new therapeutic options for relevant heart malformations.
Methods: Murine ES cells were differentiated according to a mesodermal-lineage promoting protocol. Expression profiles of ES cell-derived progeny at various differentiation stages were investigated on transcript and protein level.
Results: Comparative expression profiling of murine ES cell multilineage progeny versus undifferentiated ES cells confirmed differentiation into known cell derivatives of the three primary germ layers and provided evidence that ES cells have the capacity to differentiate into NC/CNC-like cells. Applying the NC/CNC cell-specific marker, 4E9R, an unambiguous identification of ES cell-derived NC/CNC-like cells was achieved.
Conclusions: Our findings will facilitate the establishment of an ES cell-derived CNC cell model for the investigation of molecular pathways during cardiac development in health and disease.
Keywords: Cell differentiation; Embryonic stem cells; Mice; Neural crest.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors have no conflicting financial interest.
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