Endoneurial fibroblast-like cells (EFLCs) are one of the cell populations present in the peripheral nervous system. The role and immunophenotypic characteristics of EFLCs are not well known and led us to perform a histological and cytological study of EFLCs in normal human and rat peripheral nerves. We found that all EFLCs express CD34, neural/glial antigen 2 (NG2), and prolyl-4-hydrolase-beta. In addition, half of the EFLCs in normal peripheral nerves express platelet-derived growth factor receptor-β (PDGFR-β) and some also express the intermediate filament nestin in vivo (at a lower level than Schwann cells, which express high levels of nestin). Using cell cultures of purified EFLCs, we characterized subpopulations of EFLCs expressing PDGFR-β alone or PDGFR-β and nestin. Experimental nerve lesions in rat resulted in an increase in nestin-positive EFLCs, which returned to normal levels after 8 days. This suggests that some EFLCs could have a different proliferative and/or regenerative potential than others, and these EFLCs may play a role in the initial phase of nerve repair. These "activated" EFLCs share some immunophenotypic similarities with pericytes and Interstitial cells of Cajal, which have progenitor cell potentials. This raises the questions as to whether a proportion of EFLCs have a possible role as endoneurial progenitor cells.
Keywords: CD34; NG2; PDGFR-β; cell markers; colocalization; endoneurial fibroblast-like cells; nestin; peripheral nerve.
© The Author(s) 2014.