Identification, isolation and expansion of myoendothelial cells involved in leech muscle regeneration

Annalisa Grimaldi, Serena Banfi, Laura Gerosa, Gianluca Tettamanti, Douglas M. Noonan, Roberto Valvassori, Magda de Eguileor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adult skeletal muscle in vertebrates contains myoendothelial cells that express both myogenic and endothelial markers, and which are able to differentiate into myogenic cells to contribute to muscle regeneration. In spite of intensive research efforts, numerous questions remain regarding the role of cytokine signalling on myoendothelial cell differentiation and muscle regeneration. Here we used Hirudo medicinalis (Annelid, leech) as an emerging new model to study myoendothelial cells and muscle regeneration. Although the leech has relative anatomical simplicity, it shows a striking similarity with vertebrate responses and is a reliable model for studying a variety of basic events, such as tissue repair. Double immunohistochemical analysis were used to characterize myoendothelial cells in leeches and, by injecting in vivo the matrigel biopolymer supplemented with the cytokine Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), we were able to isolate this specific cell population expressing myogenic and endothelial markers. We then evaluated the effect of VEGF on these cells in vitro. Our data indicate that, similar to that proposed for vertebrates, myoendothelial cells of the leech directly participate in myogenesis both in vivo and in vitro, and that VEGF secretion is involved in the recruitment and expansion of these muscle progenitor cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7652
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 30 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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