Notch hyper-activation drives trans-differentiation of hESC-derived endothelium
Mesenchymal Stromal Cells
During development, endothelial cells (EC) display tissue-specific attributes that are unique to each vascular bed, as well as generic signaling mechanisms that are broadly applied to create a patent circulatory system. We have previously utilized human embryonic stem cells (hESC) to generate tissue-specific EC sub-types (Rafii et al., 2013) and identify pathways that govern growth and trans-differentiation potential of hESC-derived ECs (James et al., 2010). Here, we elucidate a novel Notch-dependent mechanism that induces endothelial to mesenchymal transition (EndMT) in confluent monolayer cultures of hESC-derived ECs. We demonstrate density-dependent induction of EndMT that can be rescued by the Notch signaling inhibitor DAPT and identify a positive feedback signaling mechanism in hESC-ECs whereby trans-activation of Notch by DLL4 ligand induces elevated expression and surface presentation of DLL4. Increased Notch activation in confluent hESC-EC monolayer cultures induces areas of EndMT containing transitional cells that are marked by increased Jagged1 expression and reduced Notch signal integration. Jagged1 loss of function in monolayer hESC-ECs induces accelerated feedback stimulation of Notch signaling, increased expression of cell-autonomous, cis-inhibitory DLL4, and EndMT. These data elucidate a novel interplay of Notch ligands in modulating pathway activation during both expansion and EndMT of hESC-derived ECs.