Activated Notch1 alters differentiation of embryonic stem cells into mesodermal cell lineages at multiple stages of development.

Timm Schroeder, Franziska Meier-Stiegen, Ralf Schwanbeck, Hanna Eilken, Satomi Nishikawa, Robert Häsler, Stefan Schreiber, Georg W Bornkamm, Shin-Ichi Nishikawa, Ursula Just
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Mechanisms of development
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Signals of Notch transmembrane receptors function to regulate a wide variety of developmental cell fates. Here we investigate the role of Notch signaling in the development of mesodermal cell types by expressing a tamoxifen-inducible, activated form of Notch1 in embryonic stem cells (ESC). For differentiation of ESC into first mesodermal progenitor cells and then endothelial, mural, cardiac muscle and hematopoietic cells, the OP9 stroma co-culture system was used. Timed activation of Notch signaling by the addition of tamoxifen at various stages during differentiation of ESC into mesodermal cell lineages results in profound alterations in the generation of all of these cells. Differentiation of ESC into Flk1(+) mesodermal cells is inhibited by activated Notch. When Notch signaling is activated in mesodermal cells, generation of cardiac muscle, endothelial and hematopoietic cells is inhibited, favoring the generation of mural cells. Activation of Notch signaling in hematopoietic cells reduces colony formation and maintenance of hematopoiesis. These data suggest that Notch signaling plays a regulatory role in mesodermal development, cardiomyogenesis, the balanced generation of endothelial versus mural cells of blood vessels and hematopoietic development.