Chronic allograft vasculopathy (CAV) is a major cause of organ transplant failure that responds poorly to treatment. Endothelial activation, dysfunction and apoptosis contribute to CAV, whereas strategies for protecting endothelium and maximizing endothelial repair may diminish it. Late outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells (LO-EPC) can home to areas of injury and integrate into damaged vessels, implying a role in vascular repair; however, in an allograft, LO-EPC would be exposed to the hazardous microenvironment associated with transplant-related ischaemia reperfusion (I/R) injury and persistent inflammation. We evaluated the in vitro effect of I/R injury and the proinflammatory cytokine tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α on LO-EPC phenotype and function. We show that LO-EPC are intrinsically more tolerant than mature EC to I/R injury induced apoptosis, maintaining their proliferative, migratory and network formation capacity. Under inflammatory conditions, LO-EPC were activated and released higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, upregulated adhesion molecule expression, and were more susceptible to apoptosis. Lentiviral vector-mediated overexpression of the protective gene A20 in LO-EPC maintained their angiogenic phenotype and function, and protected them against TNF-α-mediated apoptosis, reducing ICAM-1 expression and inflammatory cytokine secretion. Administration of ex vivo modified LO-EPC overexpressing A20 might effect vascular repair of damaged allografts and protect from CAV.
© 2011 The Authors. Transplant International © 2011 European Society for Organ Transplantation.