Christoffersson G, Vågesjö E, Vandooren J, Lidén M, Massena S, Reinert RB, Brissova M, Powers AC, Opdenakker G, Phillipson M
Blood 120 (23) 4653-4662 [2012-11-29; online 2012-09-10]
Recruitment and retention of leukocytes at a site of blood vessel growth are crucial for proper angiogenesis and subsequent tissue perfusion. Although critical for many aspects of regenerative medicine, the mechanisms of leukocyte recruitment to and actions at sites of angiogenesis are not fully understood. In this study, we investigated the signals attracting leukocytes to avascular transplanted pancreatic islets and leukocyte actions at the engraftment site. Expression of the angiogenic stimulus VEGF-A by mouse pancreatic islets was elevated shortly after syngeneic transplantation to muscle. High levels of leukocytes, predominantly CD11b(+)/Gr-1(+)/CXCR4(hi) neutrophils, were observed at the site of engraftment, whereas VEGF-A-deficient islets recruited only half of the amount of leukocytes when transplanted. Acute VEGF-A exposure of muscle increased leukocyte extravasation but not the levels of SDF-1α. VEGF-A-recruited neutrophils expressed 10 times higher amounts of MMP-9 than neutrophils recruited to an inflammatory stimulus. Revascularization of islets transplanted to MMP-9-deficient mice was impaired because blood vessels initially failed to penetrate grafts, and after 2 weeks vascularity was still disturbed. This study demonstrates that VEGF-A recruits a proangiogenic circulating subset of CD11b(+)/Gr-1(+) neutrophils that are CXCR4(hi) and deliver large amounts of the effector protein MMP-9, required for islet revascularization and functional integration after transplantation.