CD34+CD140b+ cells and circulating CXCL12 correlate with the angiographically assessed severity of cardiac allograft vasculopathy.
ABSTRACT We sought to determine whether circulating vascular progenitor cells, such as endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) or smooth muscle progenitor cells (SPCs), were associated with the severity of cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV).
CD34(+)CD140b(+) SPCs and CD34(+)KDR(+) EPCs were measured in the peripheral circulation of 187 adult heart transplant recipients by flow cytometry. Cardiac allograft vasculopathy was quantified by angiography using a CAV-specific scoring system. Cardiac allograft vasculopathy was present in 84 patients (44.7%) and was classified as mild in 59 and severe in 25 cases. Circulating SPCs were more frequently detectable in CAV patients than in patients without CAV. The number of CD34(+)CD140b(+) cells showed a stepwise increase in patients with moderate and severe CAV. Smooth muscle progenitor cell counts were higher in patients with coronary stent implant compared with unstented patients with CAV. In contrast, peripheral CD34(+)KDR(+) EPC counts were not changed in CAV patients. Plasma CXCL12 levels correlated with the degree of CAV and SPC counts. None of the different immunosuppressive drug regimes was related to the SPC count or the CXCL12 levels. A multivariate regression analysis revealed that the SPC count was independently associated with the presence of CAV.
Circulating SPCs, but not EPCs, and plasma CXCL12 concentrations are elevated in CAV patients, indicating that they play prominent roles in transplant arteriosclerosis.