Driving vascular endothelial cell fate of human multipotent Isl1 + heart progenitors with VEGF modified mRNA

Kathy O. Lui, Lior Zangi, Eduardo Silva, Lei Bu, Makoto Sahara, Ronald A. Li, David J. Mooney, Kenneth R. Chien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Distinct families of multipotent heart progenitors play a central role in the generation of diverse cardiac, smooth muscle and endothelial cell lineages during mammalian cardiogenesis. The identification of precise paracrine signals that drive the cell-fate decision of these multipotent progenitors, and the development of novel approaches to deliver these signals in vivo, are critical steps towards unlocking their regenerative therapeutic potential. Herein, we have identified a family of human cardiac endothelial intermediates located in outflow tract of the early human fetal hearts (OFT-ECs), characterized by coexpression of Isl1 and CD144/vWF. By comparing angiocrine factors expressed by the human OFT-ECs and non-cardiac ECs, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A was identified as the most abundantly expressed factor, and clonal assays documented its ability to drive endothelial specification of human embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived Isl1 + progenitors in a VEGF receptor-dependent manner. Human Isl1-ECs (endothelial cells differentiated from hESC-derived ISL1 + progenitors) resemble OFT-ECs in terms of expression of the cardiac endothelial progenitor-and endocardial cell-specific genes, confirming their organ specificity. To determine whether VEGF-A might serve as an in vivo cell-fate switch for human ESC-derived Isl1-ECs, we established a novel approach using chemically modified mRNA as a platform for transient, yet highly efficient expression of paracrine factors in cardiovascular progenitors. Overexpression of VEGF-A promotes not only the endothelial specification but also engraftment, proliferation and survival (reduced apoptosis) of the human Isl1 + progenitors in vivo. The large-scale derivation of cardiac-specific human Isl1-ECs from human pluripotent stem cells, coupled with the ability to drive endothelial specification, engraftment, and survival following transplantation, suggest a novel strategy for vascular regeneration in the heart.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1172-1186
Number of pages15
JournalCell Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • cardiovascular progenitors
  • endothelial cells
  • Isl1
  • mRNA
  • VEGF-A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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