SPARC Matricellular Protein is Enriched in the Bioactive Fraction of the Human Vascular Pericyte Secretome

Elisa Avolio, Giuseppe M V U Mangialardi, Sadie C Slater, Valeria V Alvino, Yue Gu, William R Cathery, Antonio Paolo Beltrami, Rajesh G Katare, Kate J Heesom, Massimo Caputo, Paolo R Madeddu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Aims: To ascertain if human pericytes produce SPARC (acronym for Secreted Protein Acidic and Cysteine Rich), a matricellular protein implicated in the regulation of cell proliferation, migration, and cell-matrix interactions; clarify if SPARC expression in cardiac pericytes is modulated by hypoxia; and determine the functional consequences of SPARC silencing. Results: Starting from the recognition that the conditioned media (CM) of human pericytes promote proliferation and migration of cardiac stromal cells, we screened candidate mediators by mass-spectrometry analysis. Of the fourteen high-confidence proteins (<1% FDR) identified in the bioactive fractions of the pericyte CM, SPARC emerged as the top-scored matricellular protein. SPARC expression was validated using ELISA and found to be upregulated by hypoxia/starvation in pericytes that express PDGFR. This subfraction is acknowledged to play a key role in extracellular matrix remodelling. Studies in patients with acute myocardial infarction showed that peripheral blood SPARC correlates with the levels of Creatine kinase Mb, a marker of cardiac damage. Immunohistochemistry analyses of infarcted hearts revealed SPARC is expressed in vascular and interstitial cells. Silencing of SPARC reduced the pericyte ability to secrete collagen1a1, without inhibiting the effects of CM on cardiac and endothelial cells. These data indicate that SPARC is enriched in the bioactive fraction of the pericyte CM, is induced by hypoxia and ischemia, and is essential for pericyte ability to produce collagen. Innovation: This study newly indicates that pericytes are a source of the matricellular protein SPARC. Conclusion: Modulation of SPARC production by pericytes may have potential implications for post-infarct healing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAntioxidants and Redox Signaling
Early online date23 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Nov 2020


  • Pericytes
  • Secretome
  • Cell therapy
  • Paracrine factors


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