Author(s): Paola Cipriani
To assess if an impaired cross-talk between endothelial cells (ECs) and perivascular/multipotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) might induce a perturbation of vascular repair and leading to a phenotypic switch of MSC toward myofibroblast in Systemic Sclerosis (SSc).
We investigated different angiogenic and profibrotic molecules in a tridimentional matrigel assay, performing co-cultures with endothelial cells (ECs) and bone marrow derived MSCs from patients and healthy controls (HC). After 48 hours of co-culture, cells were sorted and analyzed for mRNA and protein expression.
ECs-SSc showed a decreased tube formation ability which is not improved by co-cultures with different MSCs. After sorting, we showed: i. an increased production of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) in SSc-MSCs when co-cultured with SSc-ECs; ii. an increased level of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) and platelet growth factor BB (PDGF-BB) in SSc-ECs when co-cultured with both HC- and SSc-MSCs; iii. an increase of TGF-β, PDGF-R, alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and collagen 1 (Col1) in both HC- and SSc-MSCs when co-cultured with SSc-ECs.
We showed that during SSc, the ECs-MSCs crosstalk resulted in an altered expression of different molecules involved in the angiogenic processes, and mainly SSc-ECs seem to modulate the phenotypic switch of perivascular MSCs toward a myofibroblast population, thus supporting the fibrotic process.