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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 18;8(6):e65993. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065993. Print 2013.

Endothelial Progenitors Exist within the Kidney and Lung Mesenchyme.

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Rangos Research Center, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America ; Division of Nephrology, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


The renal endothelium has been debated as arising from resident hemangioblast precursors that transdifferentiate from the nephrogenic mesenchyme (vasculogenesis) and/or from invading vessels (angiogenesis). While the Foxd1-positive renal cortical stroma has been shown to differentiate into cells that support the vasculature in the kidney (including vascular smooth muscle and pericytes) it has not been considered as a source of endothelial cell progenitors. In addition, it is unclear if Foxd1-positive mesenchymal cells in other organs such as the lung have the potential to form endothelium. This study examines the potential for Foxd1-positive cells of the kidney and lung to give rise to endothelial progenitors. We utilized immunofluorescence (IF) and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to co-label Foxd1-expressing cells (including permanently lineage-tagged cells) with endothelial markers in embryonic and postnatal mice. We also cultured FACsorted Foxd1-positive cells, performed in vitro endothelial cell tubulogenesis assays and examined for endocytosis of acetylated low-density lipoprotein (Ac-LDL), a functional assay for endothelial cells. Immunofluorescence and FACS revealed that a subset of Foxd1-positive cells from kidney and lung co-expressed endothelial cell markers throughout embryogenesis. In vitro, cultured embryonic Foxd1-positive cells were able to differentiate into tubular networks that expressed endothelial cell markers and were able to endocytose Ac-LDL. IF and FACS in both the kidney and lung revealed that lineage-tagged Foxd1-positive cells gave rise to a significant portion of the endothelium in postnatal mice. In the kidney, the stromal-derived cells gave rise to a portion of the peritubular capillary endothelium, but not of the glomerular or large vessel endothelium. These findings reveal the heterogeneity of endothelial cell lineages; moreover, Foxd1-positive mesenchymal cells of the developing kidney and lung are a source of endothelial progenitors that are likely critical to patterning the vasculature.

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