Toll-like receptor 3 signalling mediates angiogenic response upon shock wave treatment of ischaemic muscle

Cardiovasc Res. 2016 Feb 1;109(2):331-43. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvv272. Epub 2015 Dec 16.


Aims: Shock wave therapy (SWT) represents a clinically widely used angiogenic and thus regenerative approach for the treatment of ischaemic heart or limb disease. Despite promising results in preclinical and clinical trials, the exact mechanism of action remains unknown. Toll-like receptor 3, which is part of the innate immunity, is activated by binding double-stranded (ds) RNA. It plays a key role in inflammation, a process that is needed also for angiogenesis. We hypothesize that SWT causes cellular cavitation without damaging the target cells, thus liberating cytoplasmic RNA that in turn activates TLR3.

Methods and results: SWT induces TLR3 and IFN-β1 gene expression as well as RNA liberation from endothelial cells in a time-dependant manner. Conditioned medium from SWT-treated HUVECs induced TLR3 signalling in reporter cells. The response was lost when the medium was treated with RNase III to abolish dsRNAs or when TLR3 was silenced using siRNAs. In a mouse hind limb ischaemia model using wt and TLR3(-/-) mice (n = 6), SWT induced angiogenesis and arteriogenesis only in wt animals. These effects were accompanied by improved blood perfusion of treated limbs. Analysis of main molecules of the TLR3 pathways confirmed TLR3 signalling in vivo following SWT.

Conclusion: Our data reveal a central role of the innate immune system, namely Toll-like receptor 3, to mediate angiogenesis upon release of cytoplasmic RNAs by mechanotransduction of SWT.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Shock wave therapy; Toll-like receptor 3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Ischemia / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3 / metabolism


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • TLR3 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3