Resident vascular adventitial SCA1+ progenitor (AdvSca1) cells are essential in vascular development and injury. However, the heterogeneity of AdvSca1 cells presents a unique challenge in understanding signaling pathways orchestrating their behavior in homeostasis and injury responses. Using smooth muscle cell (SMC) lineage-tracing models, we identified a subpopulation of AdvSca1 cells (AdvSca1-SM) originating from mature SMCs that undergo reprogramming in situ and exhibit a multipotent phenotype. Here we employed lineage tracing and RNA-sequencing to define the signaling pathways regulating SMC-to-AdvSca1-SM cell reprogramming and AdvSca1-SM progenitor cell phenotype. Unbiased hierarchical clustering revealed that genes related to hedgehog/WNT/beta-catenin signaling were significantly enriched in AdvSca1-SM cells, emphasizing the importance of this signaling axis in the reprogramming event. Leveraging AdvSca1-SM–specific expression of GLI-Kruppel family member GLI1 (Gli1), we generated Gli1-CreERT2-ROSA26-YFP reporter mice to selectively track AdvSca1-SM cells. We demonstrated that physiologically relevant vascular injury or AdvSca1-SM cell–specific Kruppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) depletion facilitated the proliferation and differentiation of AdvSca1-SM cells to a profibrotic myofibroblast phenotype rather than macrophages. Surprisingly, AdvSca1-SM cells selectively contributed to adventitial remodeling and fibrosis but little to neointima formation. Together, these findings strongly support therapeutics aimed at preserving the AdvSca1-SM cell phenotype as a viable antifibrotic approach.
Sizhao Lu, Austin J. Jolly, Keith A. Strand, Allison M. Dubner, Marie F. Mutryn, Karen S. Moulton, Raphael A. Nemenoff, Mark W. Majesky, Mary C.M. Weiser-Evans
The Editorial Board will only consider comments that are deemed relevant and of interest to readers. The Journal will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review; or a comment that is essentially a reiteration of another comment.