Capillary pericytes mediate coronary no-reflow after myocardial ischaemia


After cardiac ischaemia, a prolonged decrease of coronary microvascular perfusion often occurs even after flow is restored in an upstream artery. This ‘no-reflow’ phenomenon worsens patient prognosis. In the brain, after stroke, a similar post-ischaemic ‘no-reflow’ has been attributed to capillary constriction by contractile pericytes. We now show that occlusion of a rat coronary artery, followed by reperfusion, blocks 40% of cardiac capillaries and halves perfused blood volume within the affected region. Capillary blockages colocalised strongly with pericytes, where capillary diameter was reduced by 37%. The pericyte relaxant adenosine increased capillary diameter by 21% at pericyte somata, decreased capillary block by 25% and increased perfusion volume by 57%. Thus, cardiac pericytes constrict coronary capillaries and reduce microvascular blood flow after ischaemia, despite re-opening of the culprit artery. Cardiac pericytes are therefore a novel therapeutic target in ischaemic heart disease.

eLife 6(e29280)