Cardiac progenitor cells including c-kit(+) cells and cardiosphere-derived cells (CDCs) play important roles in cardiac repair and regeneration. CDCs were reported to contain only small subpopulations of c-kit(+) cells and recent publications suggested that depletion of the c-kit(+) subpopulation of cells has no effect on regenerative properties of CDCs. However, our current study showed that the vast majority of CDCs from murine heart actually express c-kit, albeit, in an intracellular and non-glycosylated form. Immunostaining and flow cytometry showed that the fluorescent signal indicative of c-kit immunostaining significantly increased when cell membranes were permeabilized. Western blots further demonstrated that glycosylation of c-kit was increased during endothelial differentiation in a time dependent manner. Glycosylation inhibition by 1-deoxymannojirimycin hydrochloride (1-DMM) blocked c-kit glycosylation and reduced expression of endothelial cell markers such as Flk-1 and CD31 during differentiation. Pretreatment of these cells with a c-kit kinase inhibitor (imatinib mesylate) also attenuated Flk-1 and CD31 expression. These results suggest that c-kit glycosylation and its kinase activity are likely needed for these cells to differentiate into an endothelial lineage. In vivo, we found that intracellular c-kit expressing cells are located in the wall of cardiac blood vessels in mice subjected to myocardial infarction. In summary, our work demonstrated for the first time that c-kit is not only expressed in CDCs but may also directly participate in CDC differentiation into an endothelial lineage.
Shi H, Drummond CA, Fan X, et al. Hiding inside? Intracellular expression of non-glycosylated c-kit protein in cardiac progenitor cells. Stem Cell Research. 2016;16(3):795-806. doi:10.1016/j.scr.2016.04.017.