Endoglin is dispensable for angiogenesis, but required for endocardial cushion formation in the midgestation mouse embryo.
Vascular patterning depends on precisely coordinated timing of endothelial cell differentiation and onset of cardiac function. Endoglin is a transmembrane receptor for members of the TGF-beta superfamily that is expressed on endothelial cells from early embryonic gestation to adult life. Heterozygous loss of function mutations in human ENDOGLIN cause Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Type 1, a vascular disorder characterized by arteriovenous malformations that lead to hemorrhage and stroke. Endoglin null mice die in embryogenesis with numerous lesions in the cardiovascular tree including incomplete yolk sac vessel branching and remodeling, vessel dilation, hemorrhage and abnormal cardiac morphogenesis. Since defects in multiple cardiovascular tissues confound interpretations of these observations, we performed in vivo chimeric rescue analysis using Endoglin null embryonic stem cells. We demonstrate that Endoglin is required cell autonomously for endocardial to mesenchymal transition during formation of the endocardial cushions. Endoglin null cells contribute widely to endothelium in chimeric embryos rescued from cardiac development defects, indicating that Endoglin is dispensable for angiogenesis and vascular remodeling in the midgestation embryo, but is required for early patterning of the heart.