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Atherosclerosis. 2010 Jul;211(1):103-9. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2010.02.022. Epub 2010 Feb 24.

Paracrine factors secreted by endothelial progenitor cells prevent oxidative stress-induced apoptosis of mature endothelial cells.

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  • 1Division of Vascular Medicine, Swiss Cardiovascular Center, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, Freiburgstrasse, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland.


Endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) play a fundamental role in tissue regeneration and vascular repair. Current research suggests that EPC are more resistant to oxidative stress as compared to differentiated endothelial cells. Here we hypothesized that EPC not only possess the ability to protect themselves against oxidative stress but also confer this protection upon differentiated endothelial cells by release of paracrine factors. To test this hypothesis, HUVEC incubated with conditioned medium obtained from early EPC cultures (EPC-CM) were exposed to H2O2 to assess the accumulation of intracellular ROS, extent of apoptosis and endothelial cell functionality. Under oxidative stress conditions HUVEC treated with EPC-CM exhibited substantially lower levels of intracellular oxidative stress (0.2+/-0.02 vs. 0.4+/-0.03 relative fluorescence units, p<0.05) compared to control medium. Moreover, the incubation with EPC-CM elevated the expression level of antioxidant enzymes in HUVEC (catalase: 2.6+/-0.4; copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (Cu/ZnSOD): 1.6+/-0.1; manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD): 1.4+/-0.1-fold increase compared to control, all p<0.05). Furthermore, EPC-CM had the distinct potential to reverse the functional impairment of HUVEC as measured by their capability to form tubular structures in vitro. Finally, incubation of HUVEC with EPC-CM resulted in a significant reduction of apoptosis (0.34+/-0.01 vs. 1.52+/-0.12 relative fluorescence units, p<0.01) accompanied by an increased expression ratio of the anti/pro-apoptotic factors Bcl-2/Bax to 2.9+/-0.7-fold (compared to control, p<0.05). Most importantly, neutralization of selected cytokines such as VEGF, HGF, IL-8 and MMP-9 did not significantly reverse the cyto-protective effect of EPC-CM (p>0.05), suggesting that soluble factors secreted by EPC, possibly via broad synergistic actions, exert strong cyto-protective properties on differentiated endothelium through modulation of intracellular antioxidant defensive mechanisms and pro-survival signals.

Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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