Cardiac myxoma cells exhibit embryonic endocardial stem cell features

A. Orlandi, A. Ciucci, A. Ferlosio, R. Genta, L. G. Spagnoli, G. Gabbiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The origin of myxoma, the most frequent tumour of the heart, remains uncertain. Previous phenotypic characterizations have shown heterogeneous results and the most recent hypothesis suggests that cardiac myxoma originates from a primitive pluripotential cardiogenic cell. We investigated the expression of actin isoforms in 30 left atrial myxomas by immunohisto-chemistry and in eight consecutive tumours by RT-PCR. α-Smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) protein and/or transcripts were detected in all cases, whereas α-cardiac actin was observed in few cases and α-skeletal actin was always absent. Besides classical features, vessel-like structures were characterized by cells expressing CD34 and, less frequently, α-SMA. Confocal microscopy showed focal co-expression of CD34 and α-SMA in myxoma cells, suggesting a gradual loss of stem endothelial markers and the acquisition of myocytic antigens. In order to confirm this hypothesis, early cardiac differentiation markers were also investigated. RT-PCR documented the presence of transcripts for Sox9 (100%), Notch1 (87.5%), NFATc1 (37.5%), Smad6, metalloproteinases 1 and 2 alone or in variable combinations and the absence of ErbB3 and WT1. Myxoma cells maintained phenotypicheterogeneity in vitro, including the expression of α-SMA and the presence of stress fibres. These findings document in cardiac myxoma cells phenotypic markers of the embryonic endothelial-to-mesenchymal transformation that precedes terminal differentiation of endocardial cushions, supporting the hypothesis that cardiac myxoma cells may derive from adult developmental remnants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-239
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Actin isoforms
  • Alpha smooth muscle actin
  • CD34
  • Cardiac myxoma
  • Cardiac stem cells
  • Cardiac tumours
  • Phenotypic heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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