Dedifferentiation and Proliferation of Artery Endothelial Cells Drive Coronary Collateral Development in Mice

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2023 Aug;43(8):1455-1477. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.123.319319. Epub 2023 Jun 22.


Background: Collateral arteries act as natural bypasses which reroute blood flow to ischemic regions and facilitate tissue regeneration. In an injured heart, neonatal artery endothelial cells orchestrate a systematic series of cellular events, which includes their outward migration, proliferation, and coalescence into fully functional collateral arteries. This process, called artery reassembly, aids complete cardiac regeneration in neonatal hearts but is absent in adults. The reason for this age-dependent disparity in artery cell response is completely unknown. In this study, we investigated if regenerative potential of coronary arteries is dictated by their ability to dedifferentiate.

Methods: Single-cell RNA sequencing of coronary endothelial cells was performed to identify differences in molecular profiles of neonatal and adult endothelial cells in mice. Findings from this in silico analyses were confirmed with in vivo experiments using genetic lineage tracing, whole organ immunostaining, confocal imaging, and cardiac functional assays in mice.

Results: Upon coronary occlusion, neonates showed a significant increase in actively cycling artery cells and expressed prominent dedifferentiation markers. Data from in silico pathway analyses and in vivo experiments suggested that upon myocardial infarction, cell cycle reentry of preexisting neonatal artery cells, the subsequent collateral artery formation, and recovery of cardiac function are dependent on arterial VegfR2 (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2). This subpopulation of dedifferentiated and proliferating artery cells was absent in nonregenerative postnatal day 7 or adult hearts.

Conclusions: These data indicate that adult artery endothelial cells fail to drive collateral artery development due to their limited ability to dedifferentiate and proliferate.

Keywords: coronary arteries; endothelial cells; ischemia; myocardial infarction; vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Collateral Circulation / physiology
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A* / metabolism


  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A