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    The endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) is a critical process that occurs during the development of the outflow tract (OFT). Malformations of the OFT can lead to the occurrence of conotruncal defect (CTD). SOX7 duplication has been reported in patients with congenital CTD, but its specific role in OFT development remains poorly understood. To decipher this, histological analysis showed that SRY-related HMG-box 7 (SOX7) was regionally expressed in the endocardial endothelial cells and in the mesenchymal cells of the OFT, where EndMT occurs. Experiments, using in vitro collagen gel culture system, revealed that SOX7 was a negative regulator of EndMT that inhibited endocardial cell (EC) migration and resulted in decreased number of mesenchymal cells. Forced expression of SOX7 in endothelial cells blocked further migration and improved the expression of the adhesion protein vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin (VE-cadherin). Moreover, a VE-cadherin knockdown could partly reverse the SOX7-mediated repression of cell migration. Luciferase and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) demonstrated that SOX7 up-regulated VE-cadherin by directly binding to the gene's promoter in endothelial cells. The coding exons and splicing regions of the SOX7 gene were also scanned in the 536 sporadic CTD patients and in 300 unaffected controls, which revealed four heterozygous SOX7 mutations. Luciferase assays revealed that two SOX7 variants weakened the transactivation of the VE-cadherin promoter. In conclusion, SOX7 inhibited EndMT during OFT development by directly up-regulating the endothelial-specific adhesion molecule VE-cadherin. SOX7 mutations can lead to impaired EndMT by regulating VE-cadherin, which may give rise to the molecular mechanisms associated with SOX7 in CTD pathogenesis. © 2021 The Author(s).


    Xuechao Jiang, Tingting Li, Bojian Li, Wei Wei, Fen Li, Sun Chen, Rang Xu, Kun Sun. SOX7 suppresses endothelial-to-mesenchymal transitions by enhancing VE-cadherin expression during outflow tract development. Clinical science (London, England : 1979). 2021 Mar 26;135(6):829-846

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    PMID: 33720353

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