Coronary arteries form from reprogramming of venous cells

The cellular and developmental origins of the coronary arteries remain relatively poorly studied; determining how coronary vessels arise during development, are maintained in adult life, and remodel under pathological conditions could further our understanding of diseases such as atherosclerosis.

In the paper Red-Horse et al. carried out anatomical and histological analysis of coronary vessel development during mouse embryogenesis by using endothelial markers. Coronary vessel progenitors were found to arise from angiogenic sprouts of the sinus venosus which then differentiate: invading cells differentiate into arteries and capillaries, while cells that remain on the surface differentiate into veins. Position-specific cardiac signals trigger the differentiation into arteries, capillaries or veins.


This study redefines the conventional view that coronary vessels form from proepicardial cells that undergo an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Understanding the process of coronary arterial development could in the future lead to alternative revascularisation strategies.

· Red-Horse K, Ueno H, Weissman IL, Krasnow MA. Coronary arteries form by developmental reprogramming of venous cells. Nature 2010, Mar 25;464(7288):549-53.

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