The secretome of liver X receptor agonist-treated early outgrowth cells decreases atherosclerosis in Ldlr-/- mice

Stem Cells Transl Med. 2021 Mar;10(3):479-491. doi: 10.1002/sctm.19-0390. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) promote the maintenance of the endothelium by secreting vasoreparative factors. A population of EPCs known as early outgrowth cells (EOCs) is being investigated as novel cell-based therapies for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. We previously demonstrated that the absence of liver X receptors (LXRs) is detrimental to the formation and function of EOCs under hypercholesterolemic conditions. Here, we investigate whether LXR activation in EOCs is beneficial for the treatment of atherosclerosis. EOCs were differentiated from the bone marrow of wild-type (WT) and LXR-knockout (Lxrαβ-/-) mice in the presence of vehicle or LXR agonist (GW3965). WT EOCs treated with GW3965 throughout differentiation showed reduced mRNA expression of endothelial lineage markers (Cd144, Vegfr2) compared with WT vehicle and Lxrαβ-/- EOCs. GW3965-treated EOCs produced secreted factors that reduced monocyte adhesion to activated endothelial cells in culture. When injected into atherosclerosis-prone Ldlr-/- mice, GW3965-treated EOCs, or their corresponding conditioned media (CM) were both able to reduce aortic sinus plaque burden compared with controls. Furthermore, when human EOCs (obtained from patients with established CAD) were treated with GW3965 and the CM applied to endothelial cells, monocyte adhesion was decreased, indicating that our results in mice could be translated to patients. Ex vivo LXR agonist treatment of EOCs therefore produces a secretome that decreases early atherosclerosis in Ldlr-/- mice, and additionally, CM from human EOCs significantly inhibits monocyte to endothelial adhesion. Thus, active factor(s) within the GW3965-treated EOC secretome may have the potential to be useful for the treatment of atherosclerosis.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; autologous cell therapy; early outgrowth cells; liver X receptor; secreted factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis* / drug therapy
  • Benzoates / pharmacology
  • Benzylamines / pharmacology
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Endothelial Progenitor Cells*
  • Humans
  • Liver X Receptors / agonists*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Secretome*


  • Benzoates
  • Benzylamines
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • GW 3965
  • Liver X Receptors