GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program


Department of Medicine and Cell Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Zheng-Zheng Bao, Ph.D.


Morphogenesis, Receptor, Notch1, Cell Differentiation, Myocardium, Heart


The cardiac conduction system is responsible for maintaining and orchestrating the rhythmic contractions of the heart. Results from lineage tracing studies indicate that precursor cells in the ventricles give rise to both cardiac muscle and conduction cells. Using chick embryonic hearts, we have found that Notch signaling plays an important role in the differentiation of cardiac muscle and conduction cell lineages in the ventricles. Notch1 expression coincides with a conduction marker at early stages of conduction system development. Mis-expression of constitutively active Notch1 (NIC) in early heart tubes exhibited multiple effects on cardiac cell differentiation. Cells expressing NIC had a significant decrease in the expression of cardiac muscle markers, but an increase in the expression of conduction cell markers. Loss-of-function studies further support that Notch1 signaling is important for the differentiation of these cardiac cell types. Functional electrophysiology studies show that the expression of constitutively active Notch1 resulted in abnormalities in ventricular conduction pathway patterns.

During cardiogenesis, groups of myocardial cells become separated from each other, and migrate to form the trabeculae. These finger-like projections found within the ventricular chamber coalesce to generate the muscular portions of the interventricular septum, the thickened myocardium, and future sites of the conduction system. We have found that Notch signaling regulates the migration of cardiac cells during cardiogenesis. Over-expression of constitutively active Notch causes cells to localize more centrally within the heart, while loss-of-Notch function results in cells distributed within the periphery of the heart. Staining of heart sections shows that Notch signaling regulates the expression of N-cadherin, the predominant adhesion molecule in cardiomyocytes. We find that the effects of Notch on cell migration are two-fold: delamination and cell motility. Time-lapse studies demonstrate that Notch signaling increases cell motility, but does not affect speed or directionality of migration. Furthermore, we find that the effects of Notch on cell migration is independent of its effects on differentiation.



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