Rationale: Transplantation of stem cells into damaged hearts has had modest success as a treatment for ischemic heart disease. One of the limitations is the poor stem cell survival in the diseased microenvironment. Prolyl hydroxylase domain protein 2 (PHD2) is a cellular oxygen sensor that regulates 2 key transcription factors involved in cell survival and inflammation: hypoxia-inducible factor and nuclear factor-κB.
Objective: We studied whether and how PHD2 silencing in human adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) enhances their cardioprotective effects after transplantation into infarcted hearts.
Methods and Results: ADSCs were transduced with lentiviral short hairpin RNA against prolyl hydroxylase domain protein 2 (shPHD2) to silence PHD2. ADSCs, with or without shPHD2, were transplanted after myocardial infarction in mice. ADSCs reduced cardiomyocyte apoptosis, fibrosis, and infarct size and improved cardiac function. shPHD2-ADSCs exerted significantly more protection. PHD2 silencing induced greater ADSC survival, which was abolished by short hairpin RNA against hypoxia-inducible factor-1α. Conditioned medium from shPHD2-ADSCs decreased cardiomyocyte apoptosis. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels were significantly higher in the conditioned medium of shPHD2-ADSCs versus ADSCs, and depletion of IGF-1 attenuated the cardioprotective effects of shPHD2-ADSC–conditioned medium. Nuclear factor-κB activation was induced by shPHD2 to induce IGF-1 secretion via binding to IGF-1 gene promoter.
Conclusions: PHD2 silencing promotes ADSCs survival in infarcted hearts and enhances their paracrine function to protect cardiomyocytes. The prosurvival effect of shPHD2 on ADSCs is hypoxia-inducible factor-1α dependent, and the enhanced paracrine function of shPHD2-ADSCs is associated with nuclear factor-κB–mediated IGF-1 upregulation. PHD2 silencing in stem cells may be a novel strategy for enhancing the effectiveness of stem cell therapy after myocardial infarction.