Rationale: Defects in the morphogenesis of the fourth pharyngeal arch arteries (PAAs) give rise to lethal birth defects. Understanding genes and mechanisms regulating PAA formation will provide important insights into the etiology and treatments for congenital heart disease. Objective: Cell-ECM (extracellular matrix) interactions play essential roles in the morphogenesis of PAAs and their derivatives, the aortic arch artery and its major branches; however, their specific functions are not well-understood. Previously, we demonstrated that integrin α5β1 and Fn1 (fibronectin) expressed in the Isl1 lineages regulate PAA formation. The objective of the current studies was to investigate cellular mechanisms by which integrin α5β1 and Fn1 regulate aortic arch artery morphogenesis. Methods and Results: Using temporal lineage tracing, whole-mount confocal imaging, and quantitative analysis of the second heart field (SHF) and endothelial cell (EC) dynamics, we show that the majority of PAA EC progenitors arise by E7.5 in the SHF and contribute to pharyngeal arch endothelium between E7.5 and E9.5. Consequently, SHF-derived ECs in the pharyngeal arches form a plexus of small blood vessels, which remodels into the PAAs by 35 somites. The remodeling of the vascular plexus is orchestrated by signals dependent on the pharyngeal ECM microenvironment, extrinsic to the endothelium. Conditional ablation of integrin α5β1 or Fn1 in the Isl1 lineages showed that signaling by the ECM regulates aortic arch artery morphogenesis at multiple steps: (1) accumulation of SHF-derived ECs in the pharyngeal arches, (2) remodeling of the EC plexus in the fourth arches into the PAAs, and (3) differentiation of neural crest-derived cells adjacent to the PAA endothelium into vascular smooth muscle cells. Conclusions: PAA formation is a multistep process entailing dynamic contribution of SHF-derived ECs to pharyngeal arches, the remodeling of endothelial plexus into the PAAs, and the remodeling of the PAAs into the aortic arch artery and its major branches. Cell-ECM interactions regulated by integrin α5β1 and Fn1 play essential roles at each of these developmental stages.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- endothelial progenitor cell
- extracellular matrix