Apoptotic Find-me Signals are an Essential Driver of Stem Cell Conversion To The Cardiac Lineage

Fort L, Gama V, Macara IG.
Preprint from
22 June 2021
Pluripotent stem cells can be driven by manipulation of Wnt signaling through a series of states similar to those that occur during early embryonic development, transitioning from an epithelial phenotype into the cardiogenic mesoderm lineage and ultimately into functional cardiomyocytes 1–4 . Strikingly, we observed that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and embryonic stem cells (ESCs) undergo widespread apoptosis upon Wnt activation, followed by a synchronous epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The EMT requires induction of transcription factors SNAI1/SNAI2 downstream of MESP1 expression, and double knock-out of SNAI1/2 , or loss of MESP1 in iPSCs blocks EMT and prevents cardiac differentiation. Remarkably, blockade of early apoptosis chemically or by ablation of pro-apoptotic genes also completely prevents the EMT, suppressing even the earliest events in mesoderm conversion, including EOMES, TBX6 , and MESP1 induction. Conditioned medium from WNT-activated WT iPSCs overcomes the block to EMT by cells incapable of apoptosis (Apop-), suggesting the involvement of soluble factors from apoptotic cells in mesoderm conversion. Treatment with a purinergic P2Y receptor inhibitor or addition of apyrase demonstrated a requirement for nucleotide triphosphate signaling. ATP was sufficient to induce a partial EMT in Apop- cells treated with WNT activator. We conclude that nucleotides, in addition to acting as chemo-attractants for clearance of apoptotic cells can, unexpectedly, function as essential paracrine signals in mesoderm specification.