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Stem Cells Dev. 2004 Dec;13(6):665-76.

Monocytes and macrophages form branched cell columns in matrigel: implications for a role in neovascularization.

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Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, Department of Internal Medicine/Cardiology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Linear arrays of cells, or cell columns, have been observed in the extracellular matrix prior to neovascularization, but their nature and significance remains elusive. Based on the emerging evidence implicating a role for monocytes and macrophages (MC/MPH) in vasculogenesis, we hypothesized that MC/MPH also can form linear or branched columns, facilitating the co-migration and the spatial arrangement of other cell types. To test this hypothesis, we studied the distribution of MC/MPH effected by chemotactic migration in novel in vitro and in vivo models of development. We induced transversal and lateral migration of THP-1 monocytoid cells in Matrigel in vitro. The effect of this process on co-localization of other micro-objects was assessed using erythrocytes and micron-sized plastic beads. In vivo, we analyzed MC/MPH infiltration in subcutaneously implanted Matrigel plugs containing angiogenic factors and across a microporous filter comprising the wall of a chamber filled with Matrigel, also placed subcutaneously in mice. In vitro, we found that migrating THP-1 cells induced the lasting degradation of Matrigel and produced cell columns, a process amplified by monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1). We also report the co-localization of erythrocytes with THP-1 cells in cell columns. Endothelium-free tunnels containing MC/MPH, neutrophils, or erythrocytes were also observed in the Matrigel-filled chambers. In free subcutaneous Matrigel plugs, we found MC/MPH-based columns harboring isolated Tie-2+ cells (a marker of endothelial progenitor phenotype), as well as fibroblasts, dendritic cells, and adypocytes. Many of these cell columns displayed conspicuous branching. Our data demonstrate formation of branched MC/MPH cell columns in vitro and in vivo, a previously unrecognized pattern of penetration of extracellular matrices by inflammatory cells. Thus, monocytes and macrophages influence the distribution of neovessels as well as their branching points. These cells are the "architects of development," assisting organogenesis, tumorigenesis, and wound healing by patterning the tissular space.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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