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Embryonic stem (ES) cell-derived cardiomyocytes recapitulate cardiomyogenesis in vitro and are a potential source of cells for cardiac repair. However, this requires enrichment of mixed populations of differentiating ES cells into cardiomyocytes. Toward this goal, we have generated bicistronic vectors that express both the blasticidin S deaminase (bsd) gene and a fusion protein consisting of either myosin light chain (MLC)-3f or human a-actinin 2A and enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under the transcriptional control of the a-cardiac myosin heavy chain (a-MHC) promoter. Insertion of the DNase I-hypersensitive site (HS)-2 element from the b-globin locus control region, which has been shown to reduce transgene silencing in other cell systems, upstream of the transgene promoter enhanced MLC3f-EGFP gene expression levels in mouse ES cell lines. The a-MHC-a- actinin-EGFP, but not the a-MHC-MLC3f-EGFP, construct resulted in the correct incorporation of the newly synthesized fusion protein at the Z-band of the sarcomeres in ES cellderived cardiomyocytes. Exposure of embryoid bodies to blasticidin S selected for a relatively pure population of cardiomyocytes within 3 days. Myofibrillogenesis could be monitored by fluorescence microscopy in living cells due to sarcomeric epitope tagging. Therefore, this genetic system permits the rapid selection of a relatively pure population of developing cardiomyocytes from a heterogeneous population of differentiating ES cells, simultaneously allowing monitoring of early myofibrillogenesis in the selected myocytes.
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