The postnatal rat aorta contains pericyte progenitor cells that form spheroidal colonies in suspension culture

K. M. Howson, A. C. Aplin, M. Gelati, G. Alessandri, E. A. Parati, R. F. Nicosia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

108 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Pericytes play an important role in modulating angiogenesis, but the origin of these cells is poorly understood. To evaluate whether the mature vessel wall contains pericyte progenitor cells, nonendothelial mesenchymal cells isolated from the rat aorta were cultured in a serum-free medium optimized for stem cells. This method led to the isolation of anchorage-independent cells that proliferated slowly in suspension, forming spheroidal colonies. This process required basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) in the culture medium, because bFGF withdrawal caused the cells to attach to the culture dish and irreversibly lose their capacity to grow in suspension. Immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR analysis revealed the expression of the precursor cell markers CD34 and Tie-2 and the absence of endothelial cell markers (CD31 and endothelial nitric oxide synthase, eNOS) and smooth muscle cell markers (α-smooth muscle actin, α-SMA). In addition, spheroid-forming cells were positive for NG2, nestin, PDGF receptor (PDGFR)-α, and PDGFR-β. Upon exposure to serum, these cells lost CD34 expression, acquired α-SMA, and attached to the culture dish. Returning these cells to serum-free medium failed to restore their original spheroid phenotype, suggesting terminal differentiation. When embedded in collagen gels, spheroid-forming cells rapidly migrated in response to PDGF-BB and became dendritic. Spheroid-forming cells cocultured in collagen with angiogenic outgrowths of rat aorta or isolated endothelial cells transformed into pericytes. These results demonstrate that the rat aorta contains primitive mesenchymal cells capable of pericyte differentiation. These immature cells may represent an important source of pericytes during angiogenesis in physiological and pathological processes. They may also provide a convenient supply of mural cells for vascular bioengineering applications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Volume289
Issue number6 58-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

Fingerprint

Pericytes
Aorta
Rats
Suspensions
Stem Cells
Platelet-Derived Growth Factor Receptors
Serum-Free Culture Media
Endothelial cells
Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
Muscle
Collagen
Nestin
Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
Stem cells
Culture Media
Actins
Gels
Cells
Endothelial Cells
Physiological Phenomena

Keywords

  • Angiogenesis
  • Collagen
  • Mural cells
  • Smooth muscle
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Physiology

Cite this

The postnatal rat aorta contains pericyte progenitor cells that form spheroidal colonies in suspension culture. / Howson, K. M.; Aplin, A. C.; Gelati, M.; Alessandri, G.; Parati, E. A.; Nicosia, R. F.

In: American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology, Vol. 289, No. 6 58-6, 12.2005.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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