J. Dev. Biol.2013, 1(3), 186-202; doi:10.3390/jdb1030186 - published online 18 October 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The coronary system is the network of blood vessels that nourishes the heart muscle. After birth, proper coronary blood circulation is required to support heart homeostasis, and altered coronary function frequently leads to myocardial ischemia, infarction and heart failure. The epicardium plays a pivotal role during coronary blood vessel embryonic development, contributing cells to the coronary vasculature, but also secreting diffusible signals that regulate coronary morphogenesis and secondarily impact on ventricular compact myocardium growth. Accordingly, anomalous epicardium development gives rise to the multiple congenital defects of the coronary vascular system and the heart walls. In this review, we will summarize and discuss our current knowledge on the embryogenesis of coronary blood vessels, as related to epicardial development, and attempt to highlight the biomedical relevance of this tissue.
J. Dev. Biol.2013, 1(2), 159-185; doi:10.3390/jdb1020159 - published online 18 September 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Epicardial formation involves the attachment of proepicardial (PE) cells to the heart and the superficial migration of mesothelial cells over the surface of the heart. Superficial migration has long been known to involve the interaction of integrins expressed by the epicardium and their ligands expressed by the myocardium; however, little is understood about signals that maintain the mesothelium as it migrates. One signaling pathway known to regulate junctional contacts in epithelia is the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway and this pathway can be modified by integrins. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the myocardially expressed, integrin ligand VCAM-1 modulates the activity of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway by activating the lipid phosphatase activity of PTEN. We found that epicardial cells stimulated with a soluble form of VCAM-1 (sVCAM-1) reorganized PTEN from the cytoplasm to the membrane and nucleus and activated PTEN’s lipid phosphatase activity. Chick embryonic epicardial mesothelial cells (EMCs) expressing a shRNA to PTEN increased invasion in collagen gels, but only after stimulation by TGFβ3, indicating that loss of PTEN is not sufficient to induce invasion. Expression of an activated form of PTEN was capable of blocking degradation of junctional complexes by TGFβ3. This suggested that PTEN plays a role in maintaining the mesothelial state of epicardium and not in EMT. We tested if altering PTEN activity could affect coronary vessel development and observed that embryonic chick hearts infected with a virus expressing activated human PTEN had fewer coronary vessels. Our data support a role for VCAM-1 in mediating critical steps in epicardial development through PTEN in epicardial cells.
J. Dev. Biol.2013, 1(2), 141-158; doi:10.3390/jdb1020141 - published online 26 August 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The death of cardiac myocytes resulting from myocardial infarction is a major cause of heart failure worldwide. Effective therapies for regenerating lost cardiac myocytes are lacking. Recently, the epicardium has been implicated as a source of inflammatory cytokines, growth factors and progenitor cells that modulate the response to myocardial injury. During embryonic development, epicardially-derived cells have the potential to differentiate into multiple cardiac lineages, including fibroblasts, vascular smooth muscle and potentially other cell types. In the healthy adult heart, epicardial cells are thought to be generally quiescent. However, injury of the adult heart results in reactivation of a developmental gene program in the epicardium, which leads to increased epicardial cell proliferation and differentiation of epicardium-derived cells (EPDCs) into various cardiac lineages. Recent work suggests that epicardial reactivation after injury is accompanied by, and contributes to, a robust inflammatory response. In this review, we describe the current status of research related to epicardial biology in cardiac development and regeneration, highlighting important recent discoveries and ongoing controversies.
J. Dev. Biol.2013, 1(2), 126-140; doi:10.3390/jdb1020126 - published online 26 July 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The proepicardium (PE) is a cluster of cells that forms on the cardiac inflow tract and gives rise to the epicardium and connective tissue and largely contributes to the coronary vasculature. In many vertebrates, the PE undergoes left-right asymmetrical development. While PE cells and marker genes can be initially found on both sides, only the right-sided PE will fully develop and ultimately deliver cells to the heart. Several signalling inputs, like FGF and BMP signals, are involved in PE induction in the lateral plate mesoderm, as well as during inflow tract formation and, also, control asymmetric PE development. These signalling events will be put into the context of embryonic left-right asymmetry determination. Finally, it will be discussed whether PE development may serve as a readout for asymmetric inflow tract morphogenesis.
J. Dev. Biol.2013, 1(2), 112-125; doi:10.3390/jdb1020112 - published online 24 July 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are an excellent vertebrate model for studying heart development, regeneration and cardiotoxicity. Zebrafish embryos exposed during the temporal window of epicardium development to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) agonist 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) exhibit severe heart malformations. TCDD exposure prevents both proepicardial organ (PE) and epicardium development. Exposure later in development, after the epicardium has formed, does not produce cardiac toxicity. It is not until the adult zebrafish heart is stimulated to regenerate does TCDD again cause detrimental effects. TCDD exposure prior to ventricular resection prevents cardiac regeneration. It is likely that TCDD-induced inhibition of epicardium development and cardiac regeneration occur via a common mechanism. Here, we describe experiments that focus on the epicardium as a target and sensor of zebrafish heart toxicity.
J. Dev. Biol.2013, 1(2), 92-111; doi:10.3390/jdb1020092 - published online 3 July 2013 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Epicardial derivatives, including vascular smooth muscle cells and cardiac fibroblasts, are crucial for proper development of the coronary vasculature and cardiac fibrous matrix, both of which support myocardial integrity and function in the normal heart. Epicardial formation, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and epicardium-derived cell (EPDC) differentiation are precisely regulated by complex interactions among signaling molecules and transcription factors. Here we review the roles of critical transcription factors that are required for specific aspects of epicardial development, EMT, and EPDC lineage specification in development and disease. Epicardial cells and subepicardial EPDCs express transcription factors including Wt1, Tcf21, Tbx18, and Nfatc1. As EPDCs invade the myocardium, epicardial progenitor transcription factors such as Wt1 are downregulated. EPDC differentiation into SMC and fibroblast lineages is precisely regulated by a complex network of transcription factors, including Tcf21 and Tbx18. These and other transcription factors also regulate epicardial EMT, EPDC invasion, and lineage maturation. In addition, there is increasing evidence that epicardial transcription factors are reactivated with adult cardiac ischemic injury. Determining the function of reactivated epicardial cells in myocardial infarction and fibrosis may improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of heart disease.