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Int J Biol Sci 2011; 7(7):937-946. doi:10.7150/ijbs.7.937

Research Paper

Biological Characteristics of Foam Cell Formation in Smooth Muscle Cells Derived from Bone Marrow Stem Cells

Pengke Yan1*✉, Chenglai Xia1*, Caiwen Duan2*, Shihuang Li3, Zhengrong Mei1

1. Department of Pharmacy, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical College, Guangzhou 510150, China;
2. Institute of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, Nanhua University, Hengyang, Hunan 421001, China;
3. Chenzhou Fourth People's Hospital, Chenzhou 423000, China.
* The first three authors contributed equally to this study.


Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSC) can differentiate into diverse cell types, including adipogenic, osteogenic, chondrogenic and myogenic lineages. There are lots of BMSC accumulated in atherosclerosis vessels and differentiate into VSMC. However, it is unclear whether VSMC originated from BMSC (BMSC-SMC) could remodel the vessel in new tunica intima or promote the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In this study, BMSC were differentiated into VSMC in response to the transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) and shown to express a number of VSMC markers, such as α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and smooth muscle myosin heavy chain1 (SM-MHC1). BMSC-SMC became foam cells after treatment with 80 mg/L ox-LDL for 72 hours. Ox-LDL could upregulate scavenger receptor class A (SR-A) but downregulate the ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) and caveolin-1 protein expression, suggesting that modulating relative protein activity contributes to smooth muscle foam cell formation in BMSC-SMC. Furthermore, we found that BMSC-SMC have some biological characteristics that are similar to VSMC, such as the ability of proliferation and secretion of extracellular matrix, but, at the same time, retain some biological characteristics of BMSC, such as a high level of migration. These results suggest that BMSC-SMC could be induced to foam cells and be involved in the development of atherosclerosis.

Keywords: Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells, vascular smooth muscle cells, atherosclerosis, SR-A, ABCA1, caveolin-1

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Yan P, Xia C, Duan C, Li S, Mei Z. Biological Characteristics of Foam Cell Formation in Smooth Muscle Cells Derived from Bone Marrow Stem Cells. Int J Biol Sci 2011; 7(7):937-946. doi:10.7150/ijbs.7.937. Available from