Transient activation of reprogramming transcription factors using protein transduction facilitates conversion of human fibroblasts toward cardiomyocyte-like cells

Zaniar Ghazizadeh*, Hassan Rassouli, Hananeh Fonoudi, Mehdi Alikhani, Mahmood Talkhabi, Amir Darbandi-Azar, Shuibing Chen, Hossein Baharvand, Nasser Aghdami, Ghasem Hosseini Salekdeh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Derivation of cardiomyocytes directly from patients’ own fibroblasts could offer a new therapeutic approach for those with ischemic heart disease. An essential step toward clinical application is to establish safe conversion of human fibroblasts into a cardiac fate. Here we aimed to efficiently and safely generate cardiomyocytes from human fibroblasts by direct delivery of reprogramming recombinant cell permeant form of reprogramming proteins followed by cardio-inductive signals. Human fetal and adult fibroblasts were transiently exposed to transactivator of transcription-fused recombinant OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and c-MYC for 2 weeks and then were directly differentiated toward protein-induced cardiomyocyte-like cells (p-iCLCs) in a cardiac fate niche, carried out by treatment with a set of cardiogenic small molecules (sequential treatment of Chir, and IWP-2, SB431542 and purmorphamine). The cells showed cardiac phenotype over a period of 3 weeks without first undergoing reprogramming into or through a pluripotent intermediate, shown by lack of expression of key pluripotency markers. p-iCLCs exhibited cardiac features at both the gene and protein levels. Our study provides an alternative method for the generation of p-iCLCs which shortcut reprogramming toward allogeneic cardiomyocytes in a safe and efficient manner and could facilitate generation of genetic material-free cardiomyocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-220
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Biotechnology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes



  • Cardiomyocyte
  • Recombinant protein
  • Transdifferentiation
  • Reprogramming
  • Small molecule

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