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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2010 Nov;43(5):546-54. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2009-0152OC. Epub 2009 Dec 7.

Innate immunity in the therapeutic actions of endothelial progenitor cells in pulmonary hypertension.

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Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 8L6 Canada.


Direct injection of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) into the circulation has shown therapeutic benefit in both experimental models and clinical studies of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Using the monocrotaline (MCT)-induced rat model of PAH, we investigated the role of innate immunity in the therapeutic activity of two types of putative EPCs derived from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: an early population of endothelial-like, culture-modified monocytes (E-CMMs) and late-outgrowth EPCs (L-EPCs), which exhibit a strong endothelial phenotype. In the athymic nude rat, E-CMMs prevented MCT-induced increases in right ventricular systolic pressure (P < 0.001) and right ventricular hypertrophy (P < 0.01) when administered 3 days after MCT challenge, whereas L-EPCs were ineffective. However, in both cases, there was a lack of cell persistence within the lungs at 24 hours after injection, likely due to residual natural killer (NK) cell activity in the model. Although ablation of NK and NK-T cells with anti-asialo-GM-1 antiserum enhanced the retention of both E-CMMs and L-EPCs, still no benefit was seen with L-EPCs, and the efficacy of E-CMMs was lost. In vitro characterization revealed that E-CMMs resemble a regulatory subtype of dendritic cells, producing IL-10, but not IL-12, in response to inflammatory stimuli. Coculture studies demonstrated the capacity of E-EPCs to stimulate autologous human and nude rat NK cells in vitro. These data support a novel mode of action for human E-CMMs in the prevention of PAH, whereby they act through an immune-dependent mechanism, potentially involving the stimulation of NK cells.

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