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Oxidative stress-induced Notch1 signaling promotes cardiogenic gene expression in mesenchymal stem cells

Archana V Boopathy123, Karl D Pendergrass123, Pao Lin Che123, Young-Sup Yoon34 and Michael E Davis1234*

Author Affiliations

1 Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, 101 Woodruff Circle, Suite 2001, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

2 Interdisciplinary BioEngineering Program, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

3 Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

4 Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2013, 4:43  doi:10.1186/scrt190

Published: 18 April 2013



Administration of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) after myocardial infarction (MI) results in modest functional improvements. However; the effect of microenvironment changes after MI, such as elevated levels of oxidative stress on cardiogenic gene expression of MSCs, remains unclear.


MSCs were isolated from the bone marrow of adult rats and treated for 1 week with H2O2 (0.1 to 100 μM) or 48 hours with glucose oxidase (GOX; 0 to 5 mU/ml) to mimic long-term pulsed or short-term continuous levels of H2O2, respectively.


In 100 μM H2O2 or 5 mU/ml GOX-treated MSCs, mRNA expression of selected endothelial genes (Flt1, vWF, PECAM1), and early cardiac marker (nkx2-5, αMHC) increased significantly, whereas early smooth muscle markers (smooth muscle α-actin and sm22α) and fibroblast marker vimentin decreased, as measured with real-time PCR. Interestingly, mRNA expression and activity of the cell-surface receptor Notch1 were significantly increased, as were its downstream targets, Hes5 and Hey1. Co-treatment of MSCs with 100 μM H2O2 and a γ-secretase inhibitor that prevents Notch signaling abrogated the increase in cardiac and endothelial genes, while augmenting the decrease in smooth muscle markers. Further, on GOX treatment, a significant increase in Wnt11, a downstream target of Notch1, was observed. Similar results were obtained with adult rat cardiac-derived progenitor cells.


These data suggest that H2O2- or GOX-mediated oxidative stress upregulates Notch1 signaling, which promotes cardiogenic gene expression in adult stem/progenitor cells, possibly involving Wnt11. Modulating the balance between Notch activation and H2O2-mediated oxidative stress may lead to improved adult stem cell-based therapies for cardiac repair and regeneration.

Cardiac progenitor cells; Gene expression; Glucose oxidase; Hydrogen peroxide; Mesenchymal stem cells; Notch1