Background & aims: Microvascular endothelial cells mediate leukocyte homing, angiogenesis, and inflammation and healing and show tissue-specific adhesion molecules and functions. The activation of human intestinal mucosal microvascular endothelial cells (HIMECs) was studied in vitro to uncover possible abnormalities associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
Methods: HIMECs were isolated from normal and inflammatory bowel disease mucosa and assessed for phenotypic and morphological features, proliferative response, leukocyte binding capacity, and adhesion molecule expression.
Results: Basal proliferation by HIMECs was less than that of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) but increased proportionally more in response to vascular endothelial growth factor. Proinflammatory stimuli induced an activated, spindle-shaped morphology in HIMEC monolayers. Compared with HUVECs, unstimulated HIMECs showed less adhesiveness for U937 and MOLT4 cells and neutrophils, but cytokines and lipopolysaccharide substantially increased the binding capacity of HIMECs. HIMECs derived from inflammatory bowel disease mucosa showed a markedly greater leukocyte-binding capacity than normal mucosal HIMECs. Patterns of intercellular adhesion molecule 1, vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 and E-selectin messenger RNA expression were distinct in HIMECs, HUVECs, and mucosal mesenchymal cells.
Conclusions: HIMECs represent differentiated endothelial cells with unique functional properties. Their dramatically enhanced capacity to bind leukocytes in inflammatory bowel disease suggests that HIMECs play an important role in initiating or maintaining inflammation.