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Various hypertensive stimuli lead to exuberant adventitial collagen deposition in large arteries, exacerbating blood pressure elevation and end-organ damage. Collagen production is generally attributed to resident fibroblasts; however, other cells, including resident and bone marrow-derived stem cell antigen positive (Sca-1(+)) cells and endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells, can produce collagen and contribute to vascular stiffening. Using flow cytometry and immunofluorescence, we found that adventitial Sca-1(+) progenitor cells begin to produce collagen and acquire a fibroblast-like phenotype in hypertension. We also found that bone marrow-derived cells represent more than half of the matrix-producing cells in hypertension, and that one-third of these are Sca-1(+). Cell sorting and lineage-tracing studies showed that cells of endothelial origin contribute to no more than one fourth of adventitial collagen I(+) cells, whereas those of vascular smooth muscle lineage do not contribute. Our findings indicate that Sca-1(+) progenitor cells and bone marrow-derived infiltrating fibrocytes are major sources of arterial fibrosis in hypertension. Endothelial to mesenchymal transition likely also contributes, albeit to a lesser extent and pre-existing resident fibroblasts represent a minority of aortic collagen-producing cells in hypertension. This study shows that vascular stiffening represents a complex process involving recruitment and transformation of multiple cells types that ultimately elaborate adventitial extracellular matrix.
© 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.