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Stem Cells. 2016 Jun;34(6):1576-87. doi: 10.1002/stem.2334. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling Determines the Vasculogenic Fate of Postnatal Mesenchymal Stem Cells.

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Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics, Angiogenesis Research Laboratory, University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Department of Otolaryngology, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Vasculogenesis is the process of de novo blood vessel formation observed primarily during embryonic development. Emerging evidence suggest that postnatal mesenchymal stem cells are capable of recapitulating vasculogenesis when these cells are engaged in tissue regeneration. However, the mechanisms underlining the vasculogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells remain unclear. Here, we used stem cells from human permanent teeth (dental pulp stem cells [DPSC]) or deciduous teeth (stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth [SHED]) as models of postnatal primary human mesenchymal stem cells to understand mechanisms regulating their vasculogenic fate. GFP-tagged mesenchymal stem cells seeded in human tooth slice/scaffolds and transplanted into immunodeficient mice differentiate into human blood vessels that anastomize with the mouse vasculature. In vitro, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induced the vasculogenic differentiation of DPSC and SHED via potent activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Further, activation of Wnt signaling is sufficient to induce the vasculogenic differentiation of postnatal mesenchymal stem cells, while Wnt inhibition blocked this process. Notably, β-catenin-silenced DPSC no longer differentiate into endothelial cells in vitro, and showed impaired vasculogenesis in vivo. Collectively, these data demonstrate that VEGF signaling through the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway defines the vasculogenic fate of postnatal mesenchymal stem cells. Stem Cells 2016;34:1576-1587.


Angiogenesis; Dental pulp stem cells; Multipotency; Self-renewal; Tissue engineering; Vasculogenesis

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