Macrophages Control Vascular Stem/Progenitor Cell Plasticity Through Tumor Necrosis Factor-α-Mediated Nuclear Factor-κB Activation

Mei Mei Wong, Yikuan Chen, Andriana Margariti, Bernhard Winkler, Paola Campagnolo, Claire Potter, Yanhua Hu, Qingbo Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Vascular lineage differentiation of stem/progenitor cells can contribute to both tissue repair and exacerbation of vascular diseases such as in vein grafts. The role of macrophages in controlling vascular progenitor differentiation is largely unknown and may play an important role in graft development. This study aims to identify the role of macrophages in vascular stem/progenitor cell differentiation and thereafter elucidate the mechanisms that are involved in the macrophage- mediated process.

Approach and Results: We provide in vitro evidence that macrophages can induce endothelial cell (EC) differentiation of the stem/progenitor cells while simultaneously inhibiting their smooth muscle cell differentiation. Mechanistically, both effects were mediated by macrophage-derived tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) via TNF-α receptor 1 and canonical nuclear factor-κB activation. Although the overexpression of p65 enhanced EC (or attenuated smooth muscle cell) differentiation, p65 or TNF-α receptor 1 knockdown using lentiviral short hairpin RNA inhibited EC (or rescued smooth muscle cell) differentiation in response to TNF-α. Furthermore, TNF-α–mediated EC differentiation was driven by direct binding of nuclear factor-κB (p65) to specific VE-cadherin promoter sequences. Subsequent experiments using an ex vivo decellularized vessel scaffold confirmed an increase in the number of ECs and reduction in smooth muscle cell marker expression in the presence of TNF-α. The lack of TNF-α in a knockout mouse model of vein graft decreased endothelialization and significantly increased thrombosis formation.

Conclusions: Our study highlights the role of macrophages in directing vascular stem/progenitor cell lineage commitment through TNF-α–mediated TNF-α receptor 1 and nuclear factor-κB activation that is likely required for endothelial repair in vascular diseases such as vein graft.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-643
Number of pages9
JournalArteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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