• cell therapy;
  • endothelial progenitor cell;
  • endothelin-1;
  • endothelial cell nitric oxide synthase;
  • liver cirrhosis;
  • nitric oxide;
  • portal hypertension;
  • sinusoidal endothelial cell


Background and Aim

In cirrhosis, sinusoidal endothelial cell injury results in increased endothelin-1 (ET-1) and decreased nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity, leading to portal hypertension. However, the effects of transplanted endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) on the cirrhotic liver have not yet been clarified. We investigated whether EPC transplantation reduces portal hypertension.


Cirrhotic rats were created by the administration of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) twice weekly for 10 weeks. From week 7, rat bone marrow-derived EPCs were injected via the tail vein in this model once a week for 4 weeks. Endothelial NOS (eNOS), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and caveolin expressions were examined by Western blots. Hepatic tissue ET-1 was measured by a radioimmunoassay (RIA). Portal venous pressure, mean aortic pressure, and hepatic blood flow were measured.


Endothelial progenitor cell transplantation reduced liver fibrosis, α-smooth muscle actin-positive cells, caveolin expression, ET-1 concentration and portal venous pressure. EPC transplantation increased hepatic blood flow, protein levels of eNOS and VEGF. Immunohistochemical analyses of eNOS and isolectin B4 demonstrated that the livers of EPC-transplanted animals had markedly increased vascular density, suggesting reconstitution of sinusoidal blood vessels with endothelium.


Transplantation of EPCs ameliorates vascular dysfunction and portal hypertension, suggesting this treatment may provide a new approach in the therapy of portal hypertension with liver cirrhosis.