, Volume 314, Issue 1, pp 25-31
Date: 02 Aug 2003

EphB receptors and ephrinB ligands: regulators of vascular assembly and homeostasis

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Eph receptors comprise the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases consisting of eight EphA receptors (with five corresponding glycosyl-phosphatidyl-inositol-anchored ephrinA ligands) and six EphB receptors (with three corresponding transmembrane ephrinB ligands). Originally identified as neuronal pathfinding molecules, genetic loss of function experiments have identified EphB receptors and ephrinB ligands as crucial regulators of vascular assembly, orchestrating arteriovenous differentiation and boundary formation. Despite these clearly defined rate-limiting roles of the EphB/ephrinB system for developmental angiogenesis, the mechanisms of the functions of EphB receptors and ephrinB ligands in the cells of the vascular system are poorly understood. Moreover, little evidence can be found in the recent literature regarding complementary EphB and ephrinB expression patterns that occur in the vascular system and that may bring cells into juxtapositional contact to allow bi-directional signaling between neighboring cells. This review summarizes the current knowledge of the role of EphB receptors and ephrinB ligands during embryonic vascular assembly and discusses recent findings on EphB/ephrinB-mediated cellular functions pointing to the crucial role of the Eph/ephrin system in controlling vascular homeostasis in the adult.

Eph/ephrin work in the laboratory of the authors is supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Au83/3–2 within the SPP1069 "Angiogenesis")