The developmental relationship between the blood and endothelial cell (EC) lineages remains unclear. In the extra-embryonic blood islands of birds and mammals, ECs and blood cells are closely intermixed, and blood island precursor cells in the primitive streak express many of the same molecular markers, leading to the suggestion that both lineages arise from a common precursor, called the hemangioblast. Cells within the blood island of Xenopus also coexpress predifferentiation markers of the blood and EC lineages. However, using multiple assays, we find that precursor cells in the Xenopus blood island do not normally differentiate into ECs, suggesting that classic hemangioblasts are rare or nonexistent in Xenopus. What prevents these precursor cells from developing into mature ECs? We have found that bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling is essential for erythroid differentiation, and in the absence of BMP signaling, precursor cells adopt an EC fate. Furthermore, inhibition of the erythroid transcription pathway leads to endothelial differentiation. Our results indicate that bipotential endothelial/erythroid precursor cells do indeed exist in the Xenopus blood island, but BMP signaling normally acts to constrain EC fate. More generally, these results provide evidence that commitment to the erythroid lineage limits development of bipotential precursors toward an endothelial fate.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology