Bone marrow pericyte dysfunction in individuals with type 2 diabetes

Giuseppe Mangialardi, David Ferland-McCollough, Davide Maselli, Marianna Santopaolo, Andrea Cordaro, Gaia Spinetti, Maria Sambataro, Niall Sullivan, Ashley Blom, Paolo Madeddu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
314 Downloads (Pure)


Aims/hypothesis: Previous studies have shown that diabetes mellitus destabilises the integrity of the microvasculature in different organs by damaging the interaction between pericytes and endothelial cells. In bone marrow, pericytes exert trophic functions on endothelial cells and haematopoietic cells through paracrine mechanisms. However, whether bone marrow pericytes are a target of diabetes-induced damage remains unknown. Here, we investigated whether type 2 diabetes can affect the abundance and function of bone marrow pericytes. Methods: We conducted an observational clinical study comparing the abundance and molecular/functional characteristics of CD146+ pericytes isolated from the bone marrow of 25 individuals without diabetes and 14 individuals with uncomplicated type 2 diabetes, referring to our Musculoskeletal Research Unit for hip reconstructive surgery. Results: Immunohistochemistry revealed that diabetes causes capillary rarefaction and compression of arteriole size in bone marrow, without changing CD146+ pericyte counts. These data were confirmed by flow cytometry on freshly isolated bone marrow cells. We then performed an extensive functional and molecular characterisation of immunosorted CD146+ pericytes. Type 2 diabetes caused a reduction in pericyte proliferation, viability, migration and capacity to support in vitro angiogenesis, while inducing apoptosis. AKT is a key regulator of the above functions and its phosphorylation state is reportedly reduced in the bone marrow endothelium of individuals with diabetes. Surprisingly, we could not find a difference in AKT phosphorylation (at either Ser473 or Thr308) in bone marrow pericytes from individuals with and without diabetes. Nonetheless, the angiocrine signalling reportedly associated with AKT was found to be significantly downregulated, with lower levels of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) and C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 12 (CXCL12), and activation of the angiogenesis inhibitor angiopoietin 2 (ANGPT2). Transfection with the adenoviral vector carrying the coding sequence for constitutively active myristoylated AKT rescued functional defects and angiocrine signalling in bone marrow pericytes from diabetic individuals. Furthermore, an ANGPT2 blocking antibody restored the capacity of pericytes to promote endothelial networking. Conclusions/interpretation: This is the first demonstration of pericyte dysfunction in bone marrow of people with type 2 diabetes. An altered angiocrine signalling from pericytes may participate in bone marrow microvascular remodelling in individuals with diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1275-1290
Number of pages16
Issue number7
Early online date17 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Surgical Research


  • Angiocrine factors
  • Bone marrow
  • Diabetes
  • Microangiopathy
  • Pericytes


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