A novel population of tissue-resident endothelial precursors (TEPs) was isolated from small blood vessels in dermal, adipose, and skeletal muscle of mouse based on their ability to be grown as spheres. Cellular and molecular analyses of these cells revealed that they were highly related regardless of the tissue of origin and distinct from embryonic neural stem cells. Notably, TEPs did not express hematopoietic markers, but they expressed numerous characteristics of angiogenic precursors and their differentiated progeny, such as CD34, Flk-1, Tie-1, CD31, and vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin). TEPs readily differentiated into endothelial cells in newly formed vascular networks following transplantation into regenerating skeletal muscle. Taken together, these experiments suggest that TEPs represent a novel class of endothelial precursors that are closely associated with small blood vessels in muscle, adipose, and dermal tissue. This finding is of particular interest since it could bring new insight in cancer angiogenesis and collateral blood vessels developed following ischemia.
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