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Background A subpopulation of endothelial progenitor cells called endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) may offer a platform for cellular assessment in clinical studies because of their remarkable angiogenic and expansion potentials in vitro. Despite endothelial cell function being influenced by cardiovascular risk factors, no studies have yet provided a comprehensive proteomic profile to distinguish functional (ie, more angiogenic and expansive cells) versus dysfunctional circulating ECFCs of young adults. The aim of this study was to provide a detailed proteomic comparison between functional and dysfunctional ECFCs. Methods and Results Peripheral blood ECFCs were isolated from 11 subjects (45% men, aged 27±5 years) using Ficoll density gradient centrifugation. ECFCs expressed endothelial and progenitor surface markers and displayed cobblestone-patterned morphology with clonal and angiogenic capacities in vitro. ECFCs were deemed dysfunctional if <1 closed tube formed during the in vitro tube formation assay and proliferation rate was <20%. Hierarchical functional clustering revealed distinct ECFC proteomic signatures between functional and dysfunctional ECFCs with changes in cellular mechanisms involved in exocytosis, vesicle transport, extracellular matrix organization, cell metabolism, and apoptosis. Targeted antiangiogenic proteins in dysfunctional ECFCs included SPARC (secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine), CD36 (cluster of differentiation 36), LUM (lumican), and PTX3 (pentraxin-related protein PYX3). Conclusions Circulating ECFCs with impaired angiogenesis and expansion capacities have a distinct proteomic profile and significant phenotype changes compared with highly angiogenic endothelial cells. Impaired angiogenesis in dysfunctional ECFCs may underlie the link between endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular disease risks in young adults.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Heart Assoc

Publication Date





angiogenesis, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease risk factors, endothelial progenitor cells, hypertension/high blood pressure, proteomics, Adult, C-Reactive Protein, CD36 Antigens, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Endothelial Progenitor Cells, Endothelium, Vascular, Exocytosis, Female, Heart Disease Risk Factors, Humans, Hypertension, Lumican, Male, Neovascularization, Physiologic, Osteonectin, Proteomics, Serum Amyloid P-Component, Transcriptome