Human adventitial pericytes provide a unique source of anti-calcific cells for cardiac valve engineering: Role of microRNA-132-3p

Eva Jover*, Marco Fagnano, William Cathery Meng, Sadie Slater, Emanuela Pisanu, Yue Gu, Elisa Avolio, Domenico Bruno, Daniel Baz-Lopez, Ashton Faulkner, Michele Carrabba, Gianni Angelini, Paolo Madeddu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

2 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Tissue engineering aims to improve the longevity of prosthetic heart valves. However, the optimal cell source has yet to be determined. This study aimed to establish a mechanistic rationale supporting the suitability of human adventitial pericytes (APCs).

Methods and Results: APCs were immunomagnetically sorted from saphenous vein leftovers of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery and antigenically characterized for purity. Unlike bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs), APCs were resistant to calcification and delayed osteochondrogenic differentiation upon high phosphate (HP) induction, as assessed by cytochemistry and expression of osteogenic markers. Moreover, glycolysis was activated during osteogenic differentiation of BM-MSCs, whereas APCs showed no increase in glycolysis upon HP challenge. The microRNA-132-3p (miR-132), a known inhibitor of osteogenesis, was found constitutively expressed by APCs and upregulated following HP stimulation. The anti-calcific role of miR-132 was further corroborated by in silico analysis, luciferase assays in HEK293 cells, and transfecting APCs with miR-132 agomir and antagomir, followed by assessment of osteochondrogenic markers. Interestingly, treatment of swine cardiac valves with APC-derived conditioned medium conferred them with resistance to HP-induced osteogenesis, with this effect being negated when using the medium of miR-132-silenced APCs. Additionally, as an initial bioengineering step, APCs were successfully engrafted onto pericardium sheets, where they proliferated and promoted aortic endothelial cells attraction, a process mimicking valve endothelialization.

Conclusions: Human APCs are resistant to calcification compared with BM-MSCs and convey the anti-calcific phenotype to heart valves through miR-132. These findings may open new important avenues for prosthetic valve cellularization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-151
Number of pages15
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Early online date23 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2021

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Heart Institute


  • valvular heart disease
  • prosthetic valve
  • calcification
  • tissue engineering
  • pericytes
  • mesenchymal stromal cells
  • microRNAs


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