Angiogenic and pleiotropic effects of VEGF165 and HGF combined gene therapy in a rat model of myocardial infarction.
Since development of plasmid gene therapy for therapeutic angiogenesis by J. Isner this approach was an attractive option for ischemic diseases affecting large cohorts of patients. However, first placebo-controlled clinical trials showed its limited efficacy questioning further advance to practice. Thus, combined methods using delivery of several angiogenic factors got into spotlight as a way to improve outcomes. This study provides experimental proof of concept for a combined approach using simultaneous delivery of VEGF165 and HGF genes to alleviate consequences of myocardial infarction (MI). However, recent studies suggested that angiogenic growth factors have pleiotropic effects that may contribute to outcome so we expanded focus of our work to investigate potential mechanisms underlying action of VEGF165, HGF and their combination in MI. Briefly, Wistar rats underwent coronary artery ligation followed by injection of plasmid bearing VEGF165 or HGF or mixture of these. Histological assessment showed decreased size of post-MI fibrosis in both—VEGF165- or HGF-treated animals yet most prominent reduction of collagen deposition was observed in VEGF165+HGF group. Combined delivery group rats were the only to show significant increase of left ventricle (LV) wall thickness. We also found dilatation index improved in HGF or VEGF165+HGF treated animals. These effects were partially supported by our findings of c-kit+ cardiac stem cell number increase in all treated animals compared to negative control. Sporadic Ki-67+ mature cardiomyocytes were found in peri-infarct area throughout study groups with comparable effects of VEGF165, HGF and their combination. Assessment of vascular density in peri-infarct area showed efficacy of both–VEGF165 and HGF while combination of growth factors showed maximum increase of CD31+ capillary density. To our surprise arteriogenic response was limited in HGF-treated animals while VEGF165 showed potent positive influence on a-SMA+ blood vessel density. The latter hinted to evaluate infiltration of monocytes as they are known to modulate arteriogenic response in myocardium. We found that monocyte infiltration was driven by VEGF165 and reduced by HGF resulting in alleviation of VEGF-stimulated monocyte taxis after combined delivery of these 2 factors. Changes of monocyte infiltration were concordant with a-SMA+ arteriole density so we tested influence of VEGF165 or HGF on endothelial cells (EC) that mediate angiogenesis and inflammatory response. In a series of in vitro experiments we found that VEGF165 and HGF regulate production of inflammatory chemokines by human EC. In particular MCP-1 levels changed after treatment by recombinant VEGF, HGF or their combination and were concordant with NF-κB activation and monocyte infiltration in corresponding groups in vivo. We also found that both–VEGF165 and HGF upregulated IL-8 production by EC while their combination showed additive type of response reaching peak values. These changes were HIF-2 dependent and siRNA-mediated knockdown of HIF-2α abolished effects of VEGF165 and HGF on IL-8 production. To conclude, our study supports combined gene therapy by VEGF165 and HGF to treat MI and highlights neglected role of pleiotropic effects of angiogenic growth factors that may define efficacy via regulation of inflammatory response and endothelial function.