In vivo angiogenic phenotype of endothelial cells and pericytes induced by vascular endothelial growth factor-A

Antonella N. Witmer, Bart C. van Blijswijk, Cornelis J. F. van Noorden, Gijs F. J. M. Vrensen, Reinier O. Schlingemann

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VEGF-A is a major angiogenesis and permeability factor. Its cellular effects, which can be used as targets in anti-angiogenesis therapy, have mainly been studied in vitro using endothelial cell cultures. The purpose of the present study was to further characterize these effects in vivo in vascular endothelial cells and pericytes, in an experimental monkey model of VEGF-A-induced iris neovascularization. Two cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) received four injections of 0.5 mug VEGF-A in the vitreous of one eye and PBS in the other eye. After sacrifice at day 9, eyes were enucleated and iris samples were snap-frozen for immunohistochemistry (IHC) and stained with a panel of antibodies recognizing endothelial and pericyte determinants related to angiogenesis and permeability. After VEGF-A treatment, the pre-existing iris vasculature showed increased permeability, hypertrophy, and activation, as demonstrated by increased staining of CD31, PAL-E, tPA, uPA, uPAR, Glut-1, and alpha(v)beta(3) and alpha(v)beta(5) integrins, VEGF receptors VEGFR-1, -2 and -3, and Tie-2 in endothelial cells, and of NG2 proteoglycan, uPA, uPAR, integrins and VEGFR-1 in pericytes. Vascular sprouts at the anterior surface of the iris were positive for the same antigens except for tPA, Glut-1, and Tie-2, which were notably absent. Moreover, in these sprouts VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-3 expression was very high in endothelial cells, whereas many pericytes were present that were positive for PDGFR-P, VEGFR-1, and NG2 proteoglycan and negative for alpha-SMA. In conclusion, proteins that play a role in angiogenesis are upregulated in both pre-existing and newly formed iris vasculature after treatment with VEGF-A. VEGF-A induces hypertrophy and loss of barrier function in pre-existing vessels, and induces angiogenic sprouting, characterized by marked expression of VEGFR-3 and lack of expression of tPA and Tie-2 in endothelial cells, and lack of alpha-SMA in pericytes. Our in vivo study indicates a role for alpha-SMA-negative pericytes in early stages of angiogenesis. Therefore, our findings shed new light on the temporal and spatial role of several proteins in the angiogenic cascade in vivo
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-52
Journaljournal of histochemistry and cytochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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