Endothelial cell precursors circulate in blood and express antigens found on hematopoietic stem cells, suggesting that such precursors might be subject to transplantation. To investigate, we obtained adherence-depleted peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 3 individuals who had received a sex-mismatched allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT) and cultured the cells on fibronectin-coated plates with endothelial growth factors. The phenotype of the spindle-shaped cells that emerged in culture was characterized by immunofluorescent staining, and the origin of the cells was determined using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay for polymorphic short tandem repeats (STRs). The cells manifested a number of endothelial characteristics - such as von Willebrand factor, CD31, and Flk-1/KDR expression; Bandeiraea simplicifolia lectin 1 binding; and acetylated low-density lipoprotein uptake - but lacked expression of certain markers of activation or differentiation, including intercellular adhesion molecule-1, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, and the epitope for the anti-endothelial cell antibody P1H12. For each patient and at all time points studied (ranging from 5 to 52 months after transplantation), STR-PCR analysis showed that cultured cells and nucleated blood cells came exclusively from the bone marrow donor. These results demonstrate that circulating endothelial progenitors are both transplantable and capable of long-term repopulation of human allogeneic BMT recipients.
- Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation
- Endothelial progenitor cells
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