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Eur Heart J. 2012 Dec;33(23):2963-9. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehs234. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Osteocalcin positive CD133+/CD34-/KDR+ progenitor cells as an independent marker for unstable atherosclerosis.

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Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic and College of Medicine, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



For the characterization of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), commonly the markers CD34 and KDR have been used. CD133+/CD34-/KDR+ cells may represent more immature 'early' progenitors. In patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), a large fraction of EPCs carry the osteoblastic marker osteocalcin (OCN), which may mediate vascular calcification and abnormal repair. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression of OCN+ 'early' EPCs in patients with risk factors (RFs) and a history of stable (history of stenting/coronary artery bypass grafting) or unstable CAD (myocardial infarction).


Medical history and blood samples from 282 patients (age 58 ± 16 years) with CAD or at least one RF (mean 2.5 ± 1.5) were analysed. For the analysis of EPC markers (CD133, CD34, KDR) and OCN, the flow cytometry of peripheral blood mononuclear cells was performed. Circulating OCN+/CD133+/CD34-/KDR+ cells (median counts [interquartile range] per 100 000 events) were 15 [4-41] in patients with RF (n = 199), 26 [1-136] in those with a history of stable (n = 57), and 246 [105-308] in those with a history of unstable CAD (n = 26; P < 0.001). The association with unstable CAD remained highly significant even after multivariate adjusting for RFs and the different characteristics of the groups. Osteocalcin positive 'early' EPCs trend to predict further events [HR for each doubling of the cell number: 1.20 (95% CI: 1.00-1.46), P = 0.06].


Circulating OCN+ 'early' EPCs are strongly associated with unstable CAD. Therefore, this particular subset of EPCs could mediate abnormal vascular repair and may help identifying patients with a more unstable phenotype of atherosclerosis.

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