Adult cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) display a low capacity to differentiate into cardiomyocytes in injured hearts, strongly limiting the regenerative capacity of the mammalian myocardium. To identify new mechanisms regulating CPC differentiation, we used primary and clonally expanded Sca-1+ CPCs from murine adult hearts in homotypic culture or coculture with cardiomyocytes. Expression kinetics analysis during homotypic culture differentiation showed downregulation of Wnt target genes concomitant with increased expression of the Wnt antagonist, Wnt inhibitory factor 1 (Wif1), which is necessary to stimulate CPC differentiation. We show that the expression of the Wif1 gene is repressed by DNA methylation and regulated by the de novo DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a. In addition, miR-29a is upregulated early during CPC differentiation and downregulates Dnmt3a expression, thereby decreasing Wif1 gene methylation and increasing the efficiency of differentiation of Sca-1+ CPCs in vitro. Extending these findings in vivo, transient silencing of Dnmt3a in CPCs subsequently injected in the border zone of infarcted mouse hearts improved CPC differentiation in situ and remote cardiac remodeling. In conclusion, miR-29a and Dnmt3a epigenetically regulate CPC differentiation through Wnt inhibition. Remote effects on cardiac remodeling support paracrine signaling beyond the local injection site, with potential therapeutic interest for cardiac repair.
Aurelia De Pauw, Emilie Andre, Belaid Sekkali, Caroline Bouzin, Hrag Esfahani, Nicolas Barbier, Axelle Loriot, Charles De Smet, Laetitia Vanhoutte, Stéphane Moniotte, Bernhard Gerber, Vittoria di Mauro, Daniele Catalucci, Olivier Feron, Denise Hilfiker-Kleiner, Jean-Luc Balligand