Objective: To evaluate whether fibroblasts derived from periodontal ligament retain the ability to differentiate into putative vascular cells and construct vascular cell-specific marker-positive blood vessel structures. We also evaluated the morphological features of the structure and investigated the intracellular molecular mechanism underlying the angiogenic activity of these cells.
Methods: Single cell-derived cultures (SCDCs) were established from primary rat ligament fibroblast cultures, and their expression of ligament cell-, mesenchymal stem cell- and vascular cell-specific markers was evaluated by RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry. The ability of the cells to construct a blood vessel structure was evaluated in a three-dimensional type I collagen scaffold. The morphological and immunohistological characteristics of the structure were then evaluated.
Results: Each SCDC expressed endothelial cell (EC)-specific and smooth muscle cell-specific markers, in addition to mesenchymal stem cell- and ligament cell-specific markers. SCDC2 cells, which abundantly expressed the EC markers Flk-1 and Tie-2, vigorously constructed a blood vessel structure in a phosphoinositide 3-kinase activation-dependent manner.
Conclusion: Periodontal ligament fibroblasts have the potential to construct an EC marker-positive blood vessel-like structure. Consequently, the fibroblastic lineage in ligament tissue could be a candidate precursor for construction of a vascular system around damaged ligament tissue to facilitate its regeneration.