Date: 06 Oct 2011

Notch Signaling in Vascular Development

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Notch signaling is a very widespread signaling system that has diverse functions in many developmental systems in an evolutionarily conserved manner. Notch signaling is known to play a role in regulating epithelial, neuronal, hematopoietic, and muscle cell fate, and in the last decade, the role played by Notch signaling in the vasculature has been uncovered.

In this chapter, we will discuss the development of hematopoietic and vascular cells from cell precursors to a differentiated and fully functional vascular system, along with the role of various Notch signaling molecules in defining the different cell types that make up this system. Notch ligands and receptors are expressed in the developing vasculature and blood cells from the early emergence of hemangioblast precursors through to differentiated vascular beds. The characteristic Notch signaling mechanisms of lateral inhibition and lateral induction enable neighboring cells to create the diversity in cell types required to form not only the blood vessels, but also the vessel wall and thereby utilizing a relatively small number of genes to control multiple processes.