Author(s): Cipriani P, Marrelli A, Benedetto PD, Liakouli V, Carubbi F,
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Abstract INTRODUCTION: Vascular involvement is a key feature of Systemic sclerosis (SSc). Although the pericytes/endothelial cells (ECs) cross-talk regulates vessels formation, no evidences about the pericytes contribution to ineffective angiogenesis in SSc are available. Recent findings showed similarities between pericytes and Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells (BM-MSCs). Due to difficulties in pericytes isolation, this work explores the possibility to use BM-MSCs as pericytes surrogate, clarifying their role in supporting neo-angiogenesis during SSc. METHODS: To demonstrate their potential to normally differentiate into pericytes, both SSc and healthy controls (HC) BM-MSCs were treated with TGF-β and PDGF-BB. The expression of pericytes specific markers (α-SMA, NG2, RGS5 and desmin) was assessed by qPCR, western blot, and immunofluorescence; chemioinvasion and capillary morphogenesis were also performed. Cell-sorting of BM-MSCs co-cultured with HC-ECs was used to identify a possible change in contractile proteins genes expression. RESULTS: We showed that BM-MSCs isolated from SSc patients displayed an up-regulation of α-SMA and SM22α genes and a reduced proliferative activity. Moreover during SSc, both TGF-β and PDGF-BB can specifically modulate BM-MSCs toward pericytes. TGF-β was found interfering with the PDGF-BB effects. Using BM-MSCs/MVECs co-culture system we observed that SSc BM-MSCs improve ECs tube formation in stressed condition, and BM-MSCs, sorted after co-culture, showed a reduced α-SMA and SM22α gene expression. CONCLUSIONS: BM-MSCs from SSc patients behave as pericytes. They display a more mature and myofibroblast-like phenotype, probably related to microenvironmental cues operating during the disease. After their co-culture with HC-MVECs, SSc BM-MSCs underwent to a phenotypic modulation which re-programs these cells toward a pro-angiogenic behaviour.
This article was published in Angiogenesis
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy