Pericytes are periendothelial cells that have been involved in many different functions including a possible role as mesodermal stem/progenitor cells. In the present study we demonstrate that alkaline phosphatase (AP) expression is specific for human muscular pericytes and can be used as a marker to identify them in skeletal muscle biopsies. We studied the pericyte population in skeletal muscle biopsies from controls, myopathic and neuropathic patients. We observed a significant increase in the number of pericytes only in myopathies that correlated with the number of NCAM(+) fibres, suggesting that an active muscular degenerative/regenerative process is related to an increase in the pericyte population. AP(+) pericytes sorted from skeletal muscle samples were able to activate the myogenic programme and fuse with both mononucleate satellite cells and mature multinucleated myotubes in vitro, demonstrating that they could participate in muscle regeneration. In accordance, pericytes expressing the myogenic transcription factor MyoD were found in biopsies of myopathic biopsies. All these data support the hypothesis that, apart from satellite cells, pericytes may play an important role in muscle regeneration in adult human muscles in vivo.
Keywords: alkaline phosphatase; mesoangioblasts; muscle dystrophy; muscle regeneration; myopathies; pericytes.
Copyright © 2012 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.