Endothelial progenitor cells and integrins: Adhesive needs

F. Caiado, Sérgio Dias

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In the last decade there have been multiple studies concerning the contribution of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) to new vessel formation in different physiological and pathological settings. The process by which EPCs contribute to new vessel formation in adults is termed postnatal vasculogenesis and occurs via four inter-related steps. They must respond to chemoattractant signals and mobilize from the bone marrow to the peripheral blood; home in on sites of new vessel formation; invade and migrate at the same sites; and differentiate into mature endothelial cells (ECs) and/or regulate pre-existing ECs via paracrine or juxtacrine signals. During these four steps, EPCs interact with different physiological compartments, namely bone marrow, peripheral blood, blood vessels and homing tissues. The success of each step depends on the ability of EPCs to interact, adapt and respond to multiple molecular cues. The present review summarizes the interactions between integrins expressed by EPCs and their ligands: extracellular matrix components and cell surface proteins present at sites of postnatal vasculogenesis. The data summarized here indicate that integrins represent a major molecular determinant of EPC function, with different integrin subunits regulating different steps of EPC biology. Specifically, integrin α4β1 is a key regulator of EPC retention and/or mobilization from the bone marrow, while integrins α5β1, α6β1, αvβ3 and αvβ5 are major determinants of EPC homing, invasion, differentiation and paracrine factor production. β2 integrins are the major regulators of EPC transendothelial migration. The relevance of integrins in EPC biology is also demonstrated by many studies that use extracellular matrix-based scaffolds as a clinical tool to improve the vasculogenic functions of EPCs. We propose that targeted and tissue-specific manipulation of EPC integrin-mediated interactions may be crucial to further improve the usage of this cell population as a relevant clinical agent. © 2012 Caiado and Dias; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)Online
Number of pages13
JournalFibrogenesis and Tissue Repair
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • alpha4 integrin
  • beta3 integrin
  • CD133 antigen
  • CD34 antigen
  • integrin
  • toll like receptor adaptor molecule 1
  • vascular cell adhesion molecule 1
  • vasculotropin
  • vasculotropin receptor 2
  • angiogenesis
  • cell activity
  • cell adhesion
  • cell compartmentalization
  • cell differentiation
  • cell function
  • cell homing
  • cell interaction
  • cell invasion
  • cell migration
  • cell population
  • cell proliferation
  • cell survival
  • cytology
  • endothelial progenitor cell
  • extracellular matrix
  • hematopoietic stem cell
  • human
  • molecular biology
  • nonhuman
  • postnatal development
  • protein expression
  • protein interaction
  • review
  • stem cell mobilization
  • target cell
  • tissue blood flow
  • tissue regeneration
  • tissue repair
  • tissue specificity
  • transendothelial and transepithelial migration


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