Neuronal and mesodermal differentiation of P19 embryonal carcinoma cells is characterized by expression of specific marker genes and modulated by activin and fibroblast growth factors

Cornelia M.M. van der Kruijssen, Tanja A.E. van Achterberg, Alie Feijen, Jean M. Hébert, Peter de Waele, Adriana J.M. van den Eijnden‐van Raaij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


We have used the P19 embryonal carcinoma (EC) aggregation system as a model for early mouse development to study induction and modulation of mesodermal and neuronal differentiation. By studying the expression of marker genes for differentiated cells in this model we have shown that there is a good correlation between the differentiation direction induced in P19 EC aggregates and the expression of these genes. Expression of the neuronal gene midkine is exclusively upregulated when P19 EC cells are induced to form neurons while expression of early mesodermal genes such as Brachyury T, evx‐1, goosecoid and nodal is elevated after induction to the mesodermal pathway. In the present study we have further shown that activin A blocks the different directions of differentiation of P19 EC cells induced by retinoic acid (RA) in a dose‐dependent way. To understand the mechanism behind this inhibitory action of activin A the expression of several RA‐responsive genes, including the three RA receptor genes (RARα, RARβ and RARγ) was determined. Since activin has no clear effect on the expression and activity of the RAR it is very likely that this factor acts downstream of these receptors. In addition to activin, fibroblast growth factors (FGF) were shown to modulate P19 EC cell differentiation. However, in contrast to activin, FGF exclusively blocks the mesodermal differentiation of P19 EC cells by either 10−9mol/L RA or a factor produced by visceral endoderm‐like cells (END‐2 factor). The FGF effect is dose‐independent. These results suggest an important function for RA and the END‐2 factor in the induction and for activin and FGF in the modulation of specific differentiation processes in murine development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-574
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment, Growth & Differentiation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1995
Externally publishedYes



  • END‐2 factor
  • P19 embryonal carcinoma cell
  • activin
  • differentiation
  • fibroblast growth factor
  • retinoic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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