Understanding the origins and roles of cardiac progenitor cells is important for elucidating the pathogenesis of congenital and acquired heart diseases. Moreover, manipulation of cardiac myocyte progenitors has potential for cell-based repair strategies for various myocardial disorders. Here we report the identification in mouse of a previously unknown cardiac myocyte lineage that derives from the proepicardial organ. These progenitor cells, which express the T-box transcription factor Tbx18, migrate onto the outer cardiac surface to form the epicardium, and then make a substantial contribution to myocytes in the ventricular septum and the atrial and ventricular walls. Tbx18-expressing cardiac progenitors also give rise to cardiac fibroblasts and coronary smooth muscle cells. The pluripotency of Tbx18 proepicardial cells provides a theoretical framework for applying these progenitors to effect cardiac repair and regeneration.
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