Neural crest cells (NCCs) participate in the remodeling of the cardiac outflow tract and pharyngeal arch arteries during cardiovascular development. Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is a serine/threonine kinase and a major regulator of integrin signaling. It links integrins to the actin cytoskeleton and recruits other adaptor molecules into a large complex to regulate actin dynamics and integrin function. Using the Cre-lox system, we deleted Ilk from NCCs of mice to investigate its role in NCC morphogenesis. The resulting mutants developed a severe aneurismal arterial trunk that resulted in embryonic lethality during late gestation. Ilk mutants showed normal cardiac NCC migration but reduced differentiation into smooth muscle within the aortic arch arteries and the outflow tract. Within the conotruncal cushions, Ilk-deficient NCCs exhibited disorganization of F-actin stress fibers and a significantly rounder morphology with shorter cellular projections. Additionally, absence of ILK resulted in reduced in vivo phosphorylation of Smad3 in NCCs, which correlated with reduced αSMA levels. Our findings resemble those seen in Pinch1 and β1 integrin conditional mutant mice, and therefore support that, in neural crest-derived cells, ILK and Pinch1 act as cytoplasmic effectors of β1 integrin in a pathway that protects against aneurysms. In addition, our conditional Ilk mutant mice might prove useful as a model to study aortic aneurysms caused by reduced Smad3 signaling, as occurs in the newly described aneurysms-osteoarthritis syndrome, for example.
- Received January 19, 2013.
- Accepted June 4, 2013.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly cited and all further distributions of the work or adaptation are subject to the same Creative Commons License terms.