KC Michelis, A Nomura-Kitabayashi, L Lecce, O Franzén, S Koplev, Y Xu, MP Santini, V D'Escamard, JTL Lee, V Fuster, R Hajjar, RC Reddy, J Chikwe, P Stelzer, F Filsoufi, A Stewart, A Anyanwu, JLM Björkegren, JC Kovacic
Stem Cell Reports
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) reportedly exist in a vascular niche occupying the outer adventitial layer. However, these cells have not been well characterized in vivo in medium- and large-sized arteries in humans, and their potential pathological role is unknown. To address this, healthy and diseased arterial tissues were obtained as surplus surgical specimens and freshly processed. We identified that CD90 marks a rare adventitial population that co-expresses MSC markers including PDGFRα, CD44, CD73, and CD105. However, unlike CD90, these additional markers were widely expressed by other cells. Human adventitial CD90+ cells fulfilled standard MSC criteria, including plastic adherence, spindle morphology, passage ability, colony formation, and differentiation into adipocytes, osteoblasts, and chondrocytes. Phenotypic and transcriptomic profiling, as well as adoptive transfer experiments, revealed a potential role in vascular disease pathogenesis, with the transcriptomic disease signature of these cells being represented in an aortic regulatory gene network that is operative in atherosclerosis.