Regulation of endothelial cell differentiation and arterial specification by VEGF and Notch signaling
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- Hirashima, M. Anat Sci Int (2009) 84: 95. doi:10.1007/s12565-009-0026-1
Analysis of molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying vascular development in vertebrates indicates that initially vasculogenesis occurs when a primary capillary plexus forms de novo from endothelial cell precursors derived from nascent mesodermal cells. Transplantation experiments in avian embryos demonstrate that embryonic endothelial cells originate from two different mesodermal lineages: splanchnic mesoderm and somites. Genetic analysis of mouse and zebrafish reveals that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/Flk1 and Notch signaling play crucial roles throughout embryonic vascular development. VEGFA plays a major role in endothelial cell proliferation, migration, survival, and regulation of vascular permeability. Flk1, the primary VEGFA receptor, is the earliest marker of the developing endothelial lineage and is essential for endothelial differentiation during vasculogenesis. Notch signaling has been demonstrated to directly induce arterial endothelial differentiation. Recent studies suggest that Notch signaling is activated downstream of VEGF signaling and negatively regulates VEGF-induced angiogenesis and suppresses aberrant vascular branching morphogenesis. In addition to altering endothelial cell fate through Notch activation, VEGFA directly guides endothelial cell migration in an isoform-dependent manner, modifying vascular patterns. Interestingly, genetic studies in mice show that many molecules involved in VEGF or Notch signaling must be tightly regulated for proper vascular formation. Taken together, VEGF and Notch signaling apparently coordinate vascular patterning by regulating each other.