A novel transcription factor combination for direct reprogramming to a spontaneously contracting human cardiomyocyte-like state

Marisol Romero-Tejeda, Hananeh Fonoudi, Carly J. Weddle, Jean Marc DeKeyser, Brian Lenny, K. Ashley Fetterman, Tarek Magdy, Yadav Sapkota, Conrad L. Epting, Paul W. Burridge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The reprogramming of somatic cells to a spontaneously contracting cardiomyocyte-like state using defined transcription factors has proven successful in mouse fibroblasts. However, this process has been less successful in human cells, thus limiting the potential clinical applicability of this technology in regenerative medicine. We hypothesized that this issue is due to a lack of cross-species concordance between the required transcription factor combinations for mouse and human cells. To address this issue, we identified novel transcription factor candidates to induce cell conversion between human fibroblasts and cardiomyocytes, using the network-based algorithm Mogrify. We developed an automated, high-throughput method for screening transcription factor, small molecule, and growth factor combinations, utilizing acoustic liquid handling and high-content kinetic imaging cytometry. Using this high-throughput platform, we screened the effect of 4960 unique transcription factor combinations on direct conversion of 24 patient-specific primary human cardiac fibroblast samples to cardiomyocytes. Our screen revealed the combination of MYOCD, SMAD6, and TBX20 (MST) as the most successful direct reprogramming combination, which consistently produced up to 40% TNNT2+ cells in just 25 days. Addition of FGF2 and XAV939 to the MST cocktail resulted in reprogrammed cells with spontaneous contraction and cardiomyocyte-like calcium transients. Gene expression profiling of the reprogrammed cells also revealed the expression of cardiomyocyte associated genes. Together, these findings indicate that cardiac direct reprogramming in human cells can be achieved at similar levels to those attained in mouse fibroblasts. This progress represents a step forward towards the clinical application of the cardiac direct reprogramming approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Calcium cycling
  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Direct reprogramming
  • Fibroblast
  • High-throughput
  • Spontaneous contraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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