Vascular Stem Cells and the Role of B-Raf Kinase in Survival, Proliferation, and Apoptosis

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Neovascularization is an essential process in organismal development and aging. With aging, from fetal to adult life, there is a significant reduction in neovascularization potential. However, the pathways which play a role in increased neovascularization potential during fetal life are unknown. Although several studies proposed the idea of vascular stem cells (VSCs), the identification and essential survival mechanism are still not clear. In the present study, we isolated fetal VSCs from the ovine carotid artery and identified the pathways involved in their survival. We tested the hypothesis that fetal vessels contain a population of VSCs, and that B-Raf kinase is required for their survival. We conducted viability, apoptotic, and cell cycle stage assays on fetal and adult carotid arteries and isolated cells. To determine molecular mechanisms, we conducted RNAseq, PCR, and western blot experiments to characterize them and identify pathways essential for their survival. Results: A stem cell-like population was isolated from fetal carotid arteries grown in serum-free media. The isolated fetal VSCs contained markers for endothelial, smooth muscle, and adventitial cells, and formed a de novo blood vessel ex vivo. A transcriptomic analysis that compared fetal and adult arteries identified pathway enrichment for several kinases, including B-Raf kinase in fetal arteries. Furthermore, we demonstrated that B-Raf- Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3)-Bcl2 is critical for the survival of these cells. Fetal arteries, but not adult arteries, contain VSCs, and B-Raf-STAT3-Bcl2 plays an important role in their survival and proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7483
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • angioblasts
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • pericytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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