Deficiency of Endothelial Cxcr4 Reduces Reendothelialization and Enhances Neointimal Hyperplasia After Vascular Injury in Atherosclerosis-Prone Mice

Heidi Noels, Baixue Zhou, Pathricia V. Tilstam, Wendy Theelen, Xiaofeng Li, Lukas Pawig, Corinna Schmitz, Shamima Akhtar, Sakine Simsekyilmaz, Erdenechimeg Shagdarsuren, Andreas Schober, Ralf H. Adams, Juergen Bernhagen, Elisa A. Liehn, Yvonne Doering, Christian Weber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective The Cxcl12/Cxcr4 chemokine ligand/receptor axis mediates the mobilization of smooth muscle cell progenitors, driving injury-induced neointimal hyperplasia. This study aimed to investigate the role of endothelial Cxcr4 in neointima formation. Approach and Results -Galactosidase staining using bone marrow x kinase (Bmx)-CreER(T2) reporter mice and double immunofluorescence revealed an efficient and endothelial-specific deletion of Cxcr4 in Bmx-CreER(T2+) compared with Bmx-CreER(T2-)Cxcr4-floxed apolipoprotein E-deficient (Apoe(-/-)) mice (referred to as Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) and Cxcr4(EC-WT)ApoE(-/-), respectively). Endothelial Cxcr4 deficiency significantly increased wire injury-induced neointima formation in carotid arteries from Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) mice. The lesions displayed a higher number of macrophages, whereas the smooth muscle cell and collagen content were reduced. This was associated with a significant reduction in reendothelialization and endothelial cell proliferation in injured Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) carotids compared with Cxcr4(EC-WT)ApoE(-/-) controls. Furthermore, stimulation of human aortic endothelial cells with chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 12 (CXCL12) significantly enhanced their wound-healing capacity in an in vitro scratch assay, an effect that could be reversed with the CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100. Also, flow cytometric analysis showed a reduced mobilization of Sca1(+)Flk1(+)Cd31(+) and of Lin(-)Sca1(+) progenitors in Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) mice after vascular injury, although Cxcr4 surface expression was unaltered. No differences could be detected in plasma concentrations of Cxcl12, vascular endothelial growth factor, sphingosine 1-phosphate, or Flt3 (fms-related tyrosine kinase 3) ligand, all cytokines with an established role in progenitor cell mobilization. Nonetheless, double immunofluorescence revealed a significant reduction in local endothelial Cxcl12 staining in injured carotids from Cxcr4(EC-KO)ApoE(-/-) mice. Conclusions Endothelial Cxcr4 is crucial for efficient reendothelialization after vascular injury through endothelial wound healing and proliferation, and through the mobilization of Sca1(+)Flk1(+)Cd31(+) cells, often referred to as circulating endothelial progenitor cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1220
JournalArteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • chemokine Cxcl12
  • progenitor cells
  • receptors
  • Cxcr4
  • restenosis
  • vascular biology


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