Therapeutic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) replenishment has met with limited success for the management of critical limb-threatening ischemia. To improve outcomes of VEGF therapy, we applied single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technology to study the endothelial cells of the human diabetic skin. Single-cell suspensions were generated from the human skin followed by cDNA preparation using the Chromium Next GEM Single-cell 3′ Kit v3.1. Using appropriate quality control measures, 36,487 cells were chosen for downstream analysis. scRNA-seq studies identified that although VEGF signaling was not significantly altered in diabetic versus nondiabetic skin, phospholipase Cγ2 (PLCγ2) was downregulated. The significance of PLCγ2 in VEGF-mediated increase in endothelial cell metabolism and function was assessed in cultured human microvascular endothelial cells. In these cells, VEGF enhanced mitochondrial function, as indicated by elevation in oxygen consumption rate and extracellular acidification rate. The VEGF-dependent increase in cell metabolism was blunted in response to PLCγ2 inhibition. Follow-up rescue studies therefore focused on understanding the significance of VEGF therapy in presence or absence of endothelial PLCγ2 in type 1 (streptozotocin-injected) and type 2 (db/db) diabetic ischemic tissue. Nonviral topical tissue nanotransfection technology (TNT) delivery of CDH5 promoter–driven PLCγ2 open reading frame promoted the rescue of hindlimb ischemia in diabetic mice. Improvement of blood flow was also associated with higher abundance of VWF+/CD31+ and VWF+/SMA+ immunohistochemical staining. TNT-based gene delivery was not associated with tissue edema, a commonly noted complication associated with proangiogenic gene therapies. Taken together, our study demonstrates that TNT-mediated delivery of endothelial PLCγ2, as part of combination gene therapy, is effective in diabetic ischemic limb rescue.

Y.R., A.S.A., P.V., and S.S.V. contributed equally to this work.

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