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Abstract

In the present study, we show that endothelial-like cells (ELCs) can develop from human CD14-positive mononuclear cells (CD14 cells) in the presence of angiogenic growth factors. The CD14 cells became loosely adherent within 24 h of culture and subsequently underwent a distinct process of morphological transformation to caudated or oval cells with eccentric nuclei. After 1 week in culture the cells showed a clear expression of endothelial cell markers, including von Willebrand factor (vWF), CD144 (VE-cadherin), CD105 (endoglin), acetylated low-density lipoprotein (AC-LDL)-receptor, CD36 (thrombospondin receptor), FLT-1, which is vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) receptor-1, and, to a weaker extent, KDR (VEGF receptor-2). Furthermore, in these cells structures resembling Weibel-Palade bodies at different storage stages were identified by electron microscopy, and upon culturing on three-dimensional fibrin gels the cells build network-like structures. In addition, cell proliferation and vWF expression was stimulated by VEGF, and the endothelial cell adhesion molecules CD54 (ICAM-1), and CD106 (VCAM-1) became transiently inducible by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). In contrast, the dendritic markers CD1a, and CD83 were not expressed to any significant extent. The expression of CD68, CD80 (B7–1), CD86 (B7–2), HLA-DR and CD36 may also suggest that ELCs might be related to macrophages, sinus lining or microvascular endothelial cells. Taken together, our observations indicate that ELCs can differentiate from cells of the monocytic lineage, suggesting a closer relationship between the monocyte/macrophage- and the endothelial cell systems than previously supposed.