Induction of Fenestrae in Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Endothelial Cells for Disease Modeling

Elana M. Meijer, Christian G.M. van Dijk, Rachel Giles, Karlijn Gijsen, Ihsan Chrifi, Marianne C. Verhaar, and Caroline Cheng

Published: 2024

The endothelial linings of capillaries, such as those in the kidney and small intestines, possess fenestrae that facilitate fluid and exchange of small molecules. Alterations in the size and number of endothelial fenestrae have been implicated in the pathogenesis of various diseases. The re-creation of fenestrated endothelium using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) provides a promising avenue to investigate the involvement of fenestrae in disease mechanisms and pharmacodynamics. In this project, we aim to induce the formation of fenestrae in nonfenestrated hiPSCs-derived endothelial cells (hiPSC-ECs). Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) and phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) were used as inducers of fenestrae in hiPSC-ECs. The assessment of fenestrae formation included gene-expression analysis, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and immunofluorescent staining. Endothelial monolayer functionality was evaluated by dextran permeability assays. Stimulation with VEGFA and PMA significantly induced expression of the diaphragmed fenestrae-associated marker, plasmalemmal vesicle-associated protein (PLVAP), in hiPSC-ECs at the mRNA, and protein levels. SEM analysis revealed VEGFA- and PMA-induced fenestrae structures on the cell membrane of hiPSC-ECs. The increased membrane localization of PLVAP visualized by TEM and immunofluorescent staining supported these findings. The induced fenestrated endothelium in hiPSC-ECs demonstrated selective passage of small solutes across a confluent monolayer with intact cell junctions, confirming functional competence. In conclusion, we present a novel methodology for inducing and regulating fenestrated endothelium in hiPSC-ECs. This innovative approach paves the way for the development of fenestrated microvasculature in human organ-on-a-chip systems, enabling complex disease modeling and physiologically relevant investigations of pharmacodynamics.

Keywords: capillaries; endothelial cells; fenestrae; hiPSCs; vasculature.

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