Deficiency of endothelial CXCR4 reduces reendothelialization and enhances neointimal hyperplasia after vascular injury in atherosclerosis-prone mice

Heidi Noels, Baixue Zhou, Pathricia V Tilstam, Wendy Theelen, Xiaofeng Li, Lukas Pawig, Corinna Schmitz, Shamima Akhtar, Sakine Simsekyilmaz, Erdenechimeg Shagdarsuren, Andreas Schober, Ralf H Adams, Jürgen Bernhagen, Elisa A Liehn, Yvonne Döring, Christian Weber
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 2014, 34 (6): 1209-20

OBJECTIVE: The Cxcl12/Cxcr4 chemokine ligand/receptor axis mediates the mobilization of smooth muscle cell progenitors, driving injury-induced neointimal hyperplasia. This study aimed to investigate the role of endothelial Cxcr4 in neointima formation.

APPROACH AND RESULTS: β-Galactosidase staining using bone marrow x kinase (Bmx)-CreER(T2) reporter mice and double immunofluorescence revealed an efficient and endothelial-specific deletion of Cxcr4 in Bmx-CreER(T2+) compared with Bmx-CreER(T2-) Cxcr4-floxed apolipoprotein E-deficient (Apoe(-/-)) mice (referred to as Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) and Cxcr4(EC-WT) ApoE(-/-), respectively). Endothelial Cxcr4 deficiency significantly increased wire injury-induced neointima formation in carotid arteries from Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) mice. The lesions displayed a higher number of macrophages, whereas the smooth muscle cell and collagen content were reduced. This was associated with a significant reduction in reendothelialization and endothelial cell proliferation in injured Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) carotids compared with Cxcr4(EC-WT)ApoE(-/-) controls. Furthermore, stimulation of human aortic endothelial cells with chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 12 (CXCL12) significantly enhanced their wound-healing capacity in an in vitro scratch assay, an effect that could be reversed with the CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100. Also, flow cytometric analysis showed a reduced mobilization of Sca1(+)Flk1(+)Cd31(+) and of Lin(-)Sca1(+) progenitors in Cxcr4(EC-KO) ApoE(-/-) mice after vascular injury, although Cxcr4 surface expression was unaltered. No differences could be detected in plasma concentrations of Cxcl12, vascular endothelial growth factor, sphingosine 1-phosphate, or Flt3 (fms-related tyrosine kinase 3) ligand, all cytokines with an established role in progenitor cell mobilization. Nonetheless, double immunofluorescence revealed a significant reduction in local endothelial Cxcl12 staining in injured carotids from Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) mice.

CONCLUSIONS: Endothelial Cxcr4 is crucial for efficient reendothelialization after vascular injury through endothelial wound healing and proliferation, and through the mobilization of Sca1(+)Flk1(+)Cd31(+) cells, often referred to as circulating endothelial progenitor cells.

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