Systemic lupus erythematosus, endothelial progenitor cells and intracellular Ca2+ signaling: A novel approach for an old disease

J Autoimmun. 2020 Aug:112:102486. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2020.102486. Epub 2020 May 29.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune multisystem disease featured by an increased cardiovascular risk that may lead to premature patient's death. It has been demonstrated that SLE patients suffer from early onset endothelial dysfunction which is due to the impairment of endogenous vascular repair mechanisms. Vascular integrity and homeostasis are maintained by endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), which are mobilized in response to endothelial injury to replace damaged endothelial cells. Two main EPCs subpopulations exist in peripheral blood: endothelial colony forming cells (ECFCs), which represent truly endothelial precursors and can physically engraft within neovessels, and myeloid angiogenic cells (MACs), which sustain angiogenesis in a paracrine manner. Emerging evidence indicates that ECFCs/MACs are down-regulated and display compromised angiogenic activity in SLE, thereby contributing to the pathogenesis of this disease. Intracellular calcium (Ca2+) signaling plays a crucial role in maintaining vascular integrity by stimulating migration, proliferation and tube formation in both ECFCs and MACs. Herein, we illustrate the evidences that support the role played by EPCs dysfunction in SLE. Subsequently, we discuss about the hypothesis that the Ca2+ handling machinery is compromised in SLE-derived ECFCs and MACs, thereby resulting in their reduced pro-angiogenic activity. Finally, we speculate about the proposal to exploit intracellular Ca2+ signaling to improve ECFCs' reparative phenotype and suggest this strategy as a new approach to treat SLE patients.

Keywords: Endothelial progenitor cells; Intracellular Ca(2+) signaling; Systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling / immunology*
  • Cell Movement / immunology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelial Progenitor Cells / immunology
  • Endothelial Progenitor Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / immunology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Paracrine Communication / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • Calcium