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Stem Cells Dev. 2016 May 1;25(9):674-86. doi: 10.1089/scd.2015.0336. Epub 2016 Apr 8.

Tissue-Specific Cultured Human Pericytes: Perivascular Cells from Smooth Muscle Tissue Have Restricted Mesodermal Differentiation Ability.

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1 Molecular Medicine Section, University of Siena , Siena, Italy .
2 Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Molecular and Developmental Medicine, University of Siena , Siena, Italy .


Microvascular pericytes (PCs) are considered the adult counterpart of the embryonic mesoangioblasts, which represent a multipotent cell population that resides in the dorsal aorta of the developing embryo. Although PCs have been isolated from several adult organs and tissues, it is still controversial whether PCs from different tissues exhibit distinct differentiation potentials. To address this point, we investigated the differentiation potentials of isogenic human cultured PCs isolated from skeletal (sk-hPCs) and smooth muscle tissues (sm-hPCs). We found that both sk-hPCs and sm-hPCs expressed known pericytic markers and did not express endothelial, hematopoietic, and myogenic markers. Both sk-hPCs and sm-hPCs were able to differentiate into smooth muscle cells. In contrast, sk-hPCs, but not sm-hPCs, differentiated in skeletal muscle cells and osteocytes. Given the reported ability of the Notch pathway to regulate skeletal muscle and osteogenic differentiation, sk-hPCs and sm-hPCs were treated with N-[N-(3,5- difluorophenacetyl)-L-alanyl]-S-phenylglycine t-butyl ester (DAPT), a known inhibitor of Notch signaling. DAPT treatment, as assessed by histological and molecular analysis, enhanced myogenic differentiation and abolished osteogenic potential of sk-hPCs. In contrast, DAPT treatment did not affect either myogenic or osteogenic differentiation of sm-hPCs. In summary, these results indicate that, despite being isolated from the same anatomical niche, cultured PCs from skeletal muscle and smooth muscle tissues display distinct differentiation abilities.

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