Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 75, Issue 5, pp 859–869 | Cite as

Vascular stem/progenitor cells: functions and signaling pathways

  • Weisi Lu
  • Xuri LiEmail author


Vascular stem/progenitor cells (VSCs) are an important source of all types of vascular cells needed to build, maintain, repair, and remodel blood vessels. VSCs, therefore, play critical roles in the development, normal physiology, and pathophysiology of numerous diseases. There are four major types of VSCs, including endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), smooth muscle progenitor cells (SMPCs), pericytes, and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). VSCs can be found in bone marrow, circulating blood, vessel walls, and other extravascular tissues. During the past two decades, considerable progress has been achieved in the understanding of the derivation, surface markers, and differentiation of VSCs. Yet, the mechanisms regulating their functions and maintenance under normal and pathological conditions, such as in eye diseases, remain to be further elucidated. Owing to the essential roles of blood vessels in human tissues and organs, understanding the functional properties and the underlying molecular basis of VSCs is of critical importance for both basic and translational research.


Angiogenesis Neovascularization Endothelial cell Eye disease Pericyte Smooth muscle cell 



This review was supported by the State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology (SKLO) at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China; a key program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC; 81330021) to X. Li; an NSFC Grant (81670855) to X. Li; an NSFC–Swedish Research Foundation International Collaboration Grant (81611130082) to X. Li; a Guangdong Province Leading Expert Program Grant to X. Li; an NSFC Grant (31601179) to W. Lu; a Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China, Grant (2016A030310209) to W. Lu, and a Fundamental Research Funds of SKLO Grant (2016QN04) to W. Lu.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology, Zhongshan Ophthalmic CenterSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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