Capillary malformations (CM) (port-wine stains) are congenital skin lesions that are characterized by dilated capillaries and postcapillary venules. CMs are caused by altered functioning of the vascular endothelium. Somatic genetic mutations have predominantly been identified in the endothelial cells of CMs, providing an opportunity for the development of targeted therapies. However, there is currently limited in-depth mechanistic insight into the pathophysiology and a lack of preclinical research approaches. In a monocenter exploratory study of 17 adult patients with CMs, we found somatic sequence variants in the GNAQ (p.R183Q, p.R183G, or p.Q209R) or GNA11 (p.R183C) genes. We applied an endothelial-selective cell isolation protocol to culture primary endothelial cells from skin biopsies from these patients. We successfully expanded patient-derived cells in culture in 3 of the 17 cases while maintaining endothelial specificity as demonstrated by vascular endothelial-cadherin immunostainings. In addition, we tested the angiogenic capacity of endothelial cells from a patient with a GNAQ (p.R183G) sequence substitution. These proof-of-principle results reveal that primary cells isolated from CMs may represent a functional research model to investigate the role of endothelial somatic mutations in the etiology of CMs, but improved isolation and culture methodologies are urgently needed to advance the field.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023


  • Angiogenesis
  • Endothelial cells
  • Port-wine stains
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • Vascular malformations

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