Embryonic stem cell differentiation recapitulates the diverse phenotypes of a developing embryo, traceable according to markers of lineage specification. At gastrulation, the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor, Flk-1 (KDR), identifies a mesoderm-restricted potential of embryonic stem cells. The multi-lineage propensity of Flk-1+ progenitors mandates the mapping of fate-modifying co-factors in order to stratify differentiating cytotypes and predict lineage competency. Here, Flk-1-based selection of early embryonic stem cell progeny separated a population depleted of pluripotent (Oct4, Sox2) and endoderm (Sox17) markers. The gene expression profile of the Flk-1+ population was notable for a significant upregulation in the vasculogenic Sox7 transcription factor, which overlapped with the emergence of primordial cardiac transcription factors GATA-4, Myocardin and Nkx2.5. Sorting the parental Flk-1+ pool with the chemokine receptor CXCR4 to enrich the cardiopoietic subpopulation uncovered divergent Sox7 expression, with a 7-fold induction in non-cardiac compared to cardiac progenitors. Bioinformatic resolution sequestered a framework of gene expression relationship between Sox transcription factor family members and the Flk-1/CXCR4 axes with significant integration of β-catenin signaling. Thus, differential Sox7 gene expression presents a novel biomarker profile, and possible regulatory switch, to distinguish cardiovascular pedigrees within Flk-1+ multi-lineage progenitors.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful for the expert technical assistance of Lois A. Rowe, the valuable guidance of James E. Tarara, and the support with gene array technology by the Mayo Clinic Advanced Genomics Technology Center. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Ted Nash Long Life Foundation, and Marriott Heart Disease Research Program, Marriott Foundation. T.J.N. and A.B. are supported by Mayo Clinic Clinician-Investigator Program, and A.C. and R.C.D. by Mayo Graduate School.
- Stem cells