Abstract: Neural crest cells (NCCs), a multipotent stem cell population, contribute to cardiac development as a source of the outflow septum, vascular smooth muscle and semilunar valves. However, genetic programs underlying lineage diversification of cardiac NCCs remain largely unknown. Using single-cell (sc) and spatial transcriptomics, we demonstrate multiple NCC subpopulations with distinct gene expression signatures; smooth muscle(-like), non-muscle mesenchymal, and Schwann cell progenitor/melanoblast-like cells. Integrative scRNA-seq and scATAC-seq analyses predict lineage trajectories starting from immature NCCs, which bifurcate into smooth muscle(-like) and non-muscle mesenchymal lineages in association with hierarchical transcription factor networks. Combinatory analyses with Cre-mediated genetic lineage tracing characterize intermediate NCCs at the bifurcation as Sox9+/Scx+ tendon and cartilage progenitor-like cells with genetic programs, some of which are common to skeletal tissues whereas others are unique to cardiac NCCs. These findings provide a basis for understanding the roles of NCCs in cardiac development and pathogenesis particularly associated with calcification.

Journal Link: 10.21203/rs.3.rs-1756528/v1 Journal Link: Publisher Website Journal Link: Download PDF Journal Link: Google Scholar