Chibby, an Antagonist of the Wnt/β-Catenin Pathway, Facilitates Cardiomyocyte Differentiation of Murine Embryonic Stem Cells

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Abstract

Background—

Embryonic stem cell (ESC)–derived cardiomyocytes are anticipated to serve as a useful source for future cell-based cardiovascular disease therapies. Research emphasis is currently focused on determining methods to direct the differentiation of ESCs to a large population of cardiomyocytes with high purity. To this aim, understanding the molecular mechanisms that control ESC-to-cardiomyocyte differentiation should play a critical role in the development of this methodology. The Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway has been implicated in both embryonic cardiac development and in vitro ESC differentiation into cardiomyocytes. Chibby is a recently identified nuclear protein that directly binds to β-catenin and antagonizes its transcriptional activity.

Methods and Results—

Chibby was ubiquitously expressed in early stages of ESC differentiation but upregulated during cardiomyocyte specification. Of interest, the Chibby gene promoter has multiple binding sites for the cardiac-specific homeodomain protein Nkx2.5, and its promoter activity was indeed positively regulated by Nkx2.5. Furthermore, overexpression of Chibby increased cardiac differentiation of ESCs, whereas loss of Chibby by RNAi impaired cardiomyocyte differentiation.

Conclusions—

These data illustrate the regulation and function of Chibby in facilitating cardiomyocyte differentiation from ESCs. By revealing molecular mechanisms that control ESC-to-cardiomyocyte differentiation, this study will allow for the future development of technologies to improve cardiomyocyte differentiation from ESCs.

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