Mechanisms of vasculogenesis in 3D fibrin matrices mediated by the interaction of adipose-derived stem cells and endothelial cells
Vascularization of tissue-engineered constructs is essential to provide sufficient nutrient supply and hemostasis after implantation into target sites. Co-cultures of adipose-derived stem cells (ASC) with outgrowth endothelial cells (OEC) in fibrin gels were shown to provide an effective possibility to induce vasculogenesis in vitro. However, the mechanisms of the interaction between these two cell types remain unclear so far. The aim of this study was to evaluate differences of direct and indirect stimulation of ASC-induced vasculogenesis, the influence of ASC on network stabilization and molecular mechanisms involved in vascular structure formation. Endothelial cells (EC) were embedded in fibrin gels either containing non-coated or ASC-coated microcarrier beads as well as ASC alone. Moreover, EC-seeded constructs incubated with ASC-conditioned medium were used in addition to constructs with ASC seeded on top. Vascular network formation was visualized by green fluorescent protein (GFP) expressing cells or immunostaining for CD31 and quantified. RT-qPCR of cells derived from co-cultures in fibrin was performed to evaluate changes in the expression of EC marker genes during the first week of culture. Moreover, angiogenesis-related protein levels were measured by performing angiogenesis proteome profiler arrays. The results demonstrate that proximity of endothelial cells and ASC is required for network formation and ASC stabilize EC networks by developing pericyte characteristics. We further showed that ASC induce controlled vessel growth by secreting pro-angiogenic and regulatory proteins. This study reveals angiogenic protein profiles involved in EC/ASC interactions in fibrin matrices.