If and how the heart regenerates after an injury event is highly debated. c-kit-expressing cardiac progenitor cells have been reported as the primary source for generation of new myocardium after injury. Here we generated two genetic approaches in mice to examine whether endogenous c-kit+ cells contribute differentiated cardiomyocytes to the heart during development, with ageing or after injury in adulthood. A complementary DNA encoding either Cre recombinase or a tamoxifen-inducible MerCreMer chimaeric protein was targeted to the Kit locus in mice and then bred with reporter lines to permanently mark cell lineage. Endogenous c-kit+ cells did produce new cardiomyocytes within the heart, although at a percentage of approximately 0.03 or less, and if a preponderance towards cellular fusion is considered, the percentage falls to below approximately 0.008. By contrast, c-kit+ cells amply generated cardiac endothelial cells. Thus, endogenous c-kit+ cells can generate cardiomyocytes within the heart, although probably at a functionally insignificant level.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (to J.H.v.B., E.M. and J.D.M.). J.D.M. is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.