Role of Inflammation and Insulin Resistance in Endothelial Progenitor Cell Dysfunction

  1. Kelly O’Connell1,2
  1. 1University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
  2. 2Omaha Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
  1. Corresponding author: Cyrus V. Desouza, cdesouza{at}


OBJECTIVE Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are decreased in number and function in type 2 diabetes. Mechanisms by which this dysfunction occurs are largely unknown. We tested the hypothesis that a chronic inflammatory environment leads to insulin signaling defects in EPCs and thereby reduces their survival. Modifying EPCs by a knockdown of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) can reverse the insulin signaling defects, improve EPC survival, and decrease neointimal hyperplasia in Zucker fatty rats postangioplasty.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS EPCs from Zucker fatty insulin-resistant rats were cultured and exposed to tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Insulin signaling defects and apoptosis were measured in the presence and absence of an NF-κB inhibitor, BAY11. Then, EPCs were modified by a knockdown of NF-κB (RelA) and exposed to TNF-α. For in vivo experiments, Zucker fatty rats were given modified EPCs post–carotid angioplasty. Tracking of EPCs was done at various time points, and neointimal hyperplasia was measured 3 weeks later.

RESULTS Insulin signaling as measured by the phosphorylated–to–total AKT ratio was reduced by 56% in EPCs exposed to TNF-α. Apoptosis was increased by 71%. These defects were reversed by pretreatment with an NF-κB inhibitor, BAY11. Modified EPCs exposed to TNF-α showed a lesser reduction (RelA 20%) in insulin-stimulated AKT phosphorylation versus a 55% reduction in unmodified EPCs. Apoptosis was 41% decreased for RelA knockdown EPCs. Noeintimal hyperplasia postangioplasty was significantly less in rats receiving modified EPCs than in controls (intima-to-media ratio 0.58 vs. 1.62).

CONCLUSIONS In conclusion, we have shown that insulin signaling and EPC survival is impaired in Zucker fatty insulin resistant rats. For the first time, we have shown that this defect can be significantly ameliorated by a knockdown of NF-κB and that these EPCs given to Zucker fatty rats decrease neointimal hyperplasia post–carotid angioplasty.


  • Received June 23, 2010.
  • Accepted January 12, 2011.

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