Resident c-kit + cells in the heart are not cardiac stem cells

Nishat Sultana, Lu Zhang, Jianyun Yan, Jiqiu Chen, Weibin Cai, Shegufta Razzaque, Dongtak Jeong, Wei Sheng, Lei Bu, Mingjiang Xu, Guo Ying Huang, Roger J. Hajjar, Bin Zhou, Anne Moon, Chen Leng Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Scopus citations


Identifying a bona fide population of cardiac stem cells (CSCs) is a critical step for developing cell-based therapies for heart failure patients. Previously, cardiac c-kit + cells were reported to be CSCs with a potential to become myocardial, endothelial and smooth muscle cells in vitro and after cardiac injury. Here we provide further insights into the nature of cardiac c-kit + cells. By targeting the c-kit locus with multiple reporter genes in mice, we find that c-kit expression rarely co-localizes with the expression of the cardiac progenitor and myogenic marker Nkx2.5, or that of the myocardial marker, cardiac troponin T (cTnT). Instead, c-kit predominantly labels a cardiac endothelial cell population in developing and adult hearts. After acute cardiac injury, c-kit + cells retain their endothelial identity and do not become myogenic progenitors or cardiomyocytes. Thus, our work strongly suggests that c-kit + cells in the murine heart are endothelial cells and not CSCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8701
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Oct 30 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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