During a screen for humoral factors that promote cardiomyocyte differentiation from embryonic stem cells (ESCs), we found marked elevation of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor receptor (G-CSFR) mRNA in developing cardiomyocytes. We confirmed that both G-CSFR and G-CSF were specifically expressed in embryonic mouse heart at the midgestational stage, and expression levels were maintained throughout embryogenesis. Intrauterine G-CSF administration induced embryonic cardiomyocyte proliferation and caused hyperplasia. In contrast, approximately 50% of csf3r-/- mice died during late embryogenesis because of the thinning of atrioventricular walls. ESC-derived developing cardiomyocytes also strongly expressed G-CSFR. When extrinsic G-CSF was administered to the ESC- and human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes, it markedly augmented their proliferation. Moreover, G-CSF-neutralizing antibody inhibited their proliferation. These findings indicated that G-CSF is critically involved in cardiomyocyte proliferation during development, and may be used to boost the yield of cardiomyocytes from ESCs for their potential application to regenerative medicine.
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