A Novel Insight into Endothelial and Cardiac Cells Phenotype in Systemic Sclerosis Using Patient-Derived Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell

Cell J. 2021 Aug;23(3):273-287. doi: 10.22074/cellj.2021.7244. Epub 2021 Jul 17.


Objective: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a connective tissue disease associated with vascular damage and multi organ fibrotic changes with unknown pathogenesis. Most SSc patients suffer from defective angiogenesis/vasculogenesis and cardiac conditions leading to high mortality rates. We aimed to investigate the cardiovascular phenotype of SSc by cardiogenic differentiation of SSc induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).

Materials and methods: In this experimental study, we generated iPSC from two diffuse SSc patients, followed by successful differentiation into endothelial cells (ECs) and cardiomyocytes (CMs).

Results: SSc-derived EC (SSc-EC) expressed KDR, a nearly EC marker, similar to healthy control-EC (C1-EC). After sorting and culturing KDR+ cells, the resulting EC expressed CD31, a late endothelial marker, but vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin expression markedly dropped resulting in a functional defect as reflected in tube formation failure of SSc-EC. Interestingly, upregulation of SNAI1 (snail family transcriptional repressor 1) was observed in SSc-EC which might underlie VE-cadherin downregulation. Furthermore, SSc-derived CM (SSc-CM) successfully expressed cardiacspecific markers including ion channels, resulting in normal physiological behavior and responsiveness to cardioactive drugs.

Conclusion: This study provides an insight into impaired angiogenesis observed in SSc patients by evaluating in vitro cardiovascular differentiation of SSc iPSC.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Cardiomyocyte; Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells; Systemic Sclerosis; VE-Cadherin.