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Keywords:

  • apoptosis;
  • inflammation;
  • macrophage;
  • phagocytosis

Summary

Swift and regulated clearance of apoptotic cells prevents the accumulation of cell remnants in injured tissues and contributes to the shift of macrophages towards alternatively activated reparatory cells that sustain wound healing. Environmental signals, most of which are unknown, in turn control the efficiency of the clearance of apoptotic cells and as such determine whether tissues eventually heal. In this study we show that vessel-associated stem cells (mesoangioblasts) specifically modulate the expression of genes involved in the clearance of apoptotic cells and in macrophage alternative activation, including those of scavenger receptors and of molecules that bridge dying cells and phagocytes. Mesoangioblasts, but not immortalized myoblasts or neural precursor cells, enhance CD163 membrane expression in vitro as assessed by flow cytometry, indicating that the effect is specific. Mesoangioblasts transplanted in acutely or chronically injured skeletal muscles determine the expansion of the population of CD163+ infiltrating macrophages and increase the extent of CD163 expression. Conversely, macrophages challenged with mesoangioblasts engulf significantly better apoptotic cells in vitro. Collectively, the data reveal a feed-forward loop between macrophages and vessel-associated stem cells, which has implications for the skeletal muscle homeostatic response to sterile injury and for diseases in which homeostasis is jeopardized, including muscle dystrophies and inflammatory myopathies.