Mapping the developing human cardiac endothelium at single cell resolution identifies MECOM as a regulator of arteriovenous gene expression

Ian McCracken, Ross Dobie, Matthew Bennett, Rainha Passi, Abdelaziz Beqqali, Neil C Henderson, Joanne C Mountford, Paul R Riley, Chris P Ponting, Nicola Smart, Mairi Brittan, Andrew H Baker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Aims: Coronary vasculature formation is a critical event during cardiac development, essential for heart function throughout perinatal and adult life. However, current understanding of coronary vascular development has largely been derived from transgenic mouse models. The aim of this study was to characterise the transcriptome of the human fetal cardiac endothelium using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) to provide critical new insights into the cellular heterogeneity and transcriptional dynamics that underpin endothelial specification within the vasculature of the developing heart.
Methods and Results: We acquired scRNA-seq data of over 10,000 fetal cardiac endothelial cells (EC), revealing divergent EC subtypes including endocardial, capillary, venous, arterial, and lymphatic populations. Gene regulatory network analyses predicted roles for SMAD1 and MECOM in determining the identity of capillary and arterial populations, respectively. Trajectory inference analysis suggested an endocardial contribution to the coronary vasculature and subsequent arterialisation of capillary endothelium accompanied by increasing MECOM expression. Comparative analysis of equivalent data from murine cardiac
development demonstrated that transcriptional signatures defining endothelial subpopulations are largely conserved between human and mouse. Comprehensive characterisation of the transcriptional response to MECOM knockdown in human embryonic stem cell-derived EC (hESC-EC) demonstrated an increase in the expression of non-arterial markers, including those enriched in venous EC. Conclusions: scRNA-seq of the human fetal cardiac endothelium identified distinct EC populations. A predicted endocardial contribution to the developing coronary vasculature was identified, as well as subsequent arterial specification of capillary EC. Loss of MECOM in hESC-EC increased expression of non-arterial markers, suggesting a role in maintaining arterial EC identity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCardiovascular Research
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2022


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