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Cardiovasc Res. 2001 Feb 16;49(3):671-80.

Monocytes coexpress endothelial and macrophagocytic lineage markers and form cord-like structures in Matrigel under angiogenic conditions.

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  • 1Department of Cardiology, Technical University of Dresden, Heart Center Dresden, Fetscherstr. 76, D-01307, Dresden, Germany.



It has been shown that circulating human non-adherent CD34+ cells coexpressing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-R2 and AC133 have the capacity to differentiate into adherent mature endothelial cells. However, prior studies have demonstrated that a much bigger subset of primary adherent mononuclear cells can also form endothelial progenitor cells (EPC). To determine the origin of the latter cell population we tested the hypothesis: do monocytes as a firmly adherent and plastic cell type have the potential to differentiate into an endothelial phenotype.


CD34-/CD14+ monocytes were isolated from human peripheral blood by adherence separation and magnetic bead selection (purity >90%) and cultured on fibronectin-coated plastic dishes (medium containing VEGF 10 ng/ml, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) 2 ng/ml, insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) 1 ng/ml, 20% fetal calf serum).


After 2 weeks of culture, using fluorescence activated cell analysis we observed a new expression of the endothelial markers von Willebrand factor (vWf), VE-cadherin (VE) and ec-NOS in 45.2, 12.4 and 9.8% of the cells, respectively. The proportion of cells expressing these markers further increased after 4 weeks (94.2, 89.7 and 58.8% of these cells, respectively). The proportion of CD45 expressing cells remained unchanged during this period. However, after 14 days the specific macrophage antigen CD68 was newly expressed in 62% of the analysed cells with a further increase to 90% after 28 days of culture. In three-dimensional gel (Matrigel the formation of cord- and tubular-like structures was observed.


The present data indicate that under angiogenic stimulation macrophages develop an endothelial phenotype with expression of specific surface markers and even form cord- and tubular-like structures in vitro suggesting that this cell population may be recruited for vasculogenesis.

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