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      Autocrine activity of soluble Flt-1 controls endothelial cell function and angiogenesis

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          Abstract

          Background

          The negative feedback system is an important physiological regulatory mechanism controlling angiogenesis. Soluble vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-1 (sFlt-1), acts as a potent endogenous soluble inhibitor of VEGF- and placenta growth factor (PlGF)-mediated biological function and can also form dominant-negative complexes with competent full-length VEGF receptors.

          Methods and results

          Systemic overexpression of VEGF-A in mice resulted in significantly elevated circulating sFlt-1. In addition, stimulation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) with VEGF-A, induced a five-fold increase in sFlt-1 mRNA, a time-dependent significant increase in the release of sFlt-1 into the culture medium and activation of the flt-1 gene promoter. This response was dependent on VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) and phosphoinositide-3'-kinase signalling. siRNA-mediated knockdown of sFlt-1 in HUVEC stimulated the activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, increased basal and VEGF-induced cell migration and enhanced endothelial tube formation on growth factor reduced Matrigel. In contrast, adenoviral overexpression of sFlt-1 suppressed phosphorylation of VEGFR-2 at tyrosine 951 and ERK-1/-2 MAPK and reduced HUVEC proliferation. Preeclampsia is associated with elevated placental and systemic sFlt-1. Phosphorylation of VEGFR-2 tyrosine 951 was greatly reduced in placenta from preeclamptic patients compared to gestationally-matched normal placenta.

          Conclusion

          These results show that endothelial sFlt-1 expression is regulated by VEGF and acts as an autocrine regulator of endothelial cell function.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Circulating angiogenic factors and the risk of preeclampsia.

          The cause of preeclampsia remains unclear. Limited data suggest that excess circulating soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (sFlt-1), which binds placental growth factor (PlGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), may have a pathogenic role. We performed a nested case-control study within the Calcium for Preeclampsia Prevention trial, which involved healthy nulliparous women. Each woman with preeclampsia was matched to one normotensive control. A total of 120 pairs of women were randomly chosen. Serum concentrations of angiogenic factors (total sFlt-1, free PlGF, and free VEGF) were measured throughout pregnancy; there were a total of 655 serum specimens. The data were analyzed cross-sectionally within intervals of gestational age and according to the time before the onset of preeclampsia. During the last two months of pregnancy in the normotensive controls, the level of sFlt-1 increased and the level of PlGF decreased. These changes occurred earlier and were more pronounced in the women in whom preeclampsia later developed. The sFlt-1 level increased beginning approximately five weeks before the onset of preeclampsia. At the onset of clinical disease, the mean serum level in the women with preeclampsia was 4382 pg per milliliter, as compared with 1643 pg per milliliter in controls with fetuses of similar gestational age (P<0.001). The PlGF levels were significantly lower in the women who later had preeclampsia than in the controls beginning at 13 to 16 weeks of gestation (mean, 90 pg per milliliter vs. 142 pg per milliliter, P=0.01), with the greatest difference occurring during the weeks before the onset of preeclampsia, coincident with the increase in the sFlt-1 level. Alterations in the levels of sFlt-1 and free PlGF were greater in women with an earlier onset of preeclampsia and in women in whom preeclampsia was associated with a small-for-gestational-age infant. Increased levels of sFlt-1 and reduced levels of PlGF predict the subsequent development of preeclampsia. Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society
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            Autocrine VEGF signaling is required for vascular homeostasis.

            Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is essential for developmental and pathological angiogenesis. Here we show that in the absence of any pathological insult, autocrine VEGF is required for the homeostasis of blood vessels in the adult. Genetic deletion of vegf specifically in the endothelial lineage leads to progressive endothelial degeneration and sudden death in 55% of mutant mice by 25 weeks of age. The phenotype is manifested without detectable changes in the total levels of VEGF mRNA or protein, indicating that paracrine VEGF could not compensate for the absence of endothelial VEGF. Furthermore, wild-type, but not VEGF null, endothelial cells showed phosphorylation of VEGFR2 in the absence of exogenous VEGF. Activation of the receptor in wild-type cells was suppressed by small molecule antagonists but not by extracellular blockade of VEGF. These results reveal a cell-autonomous VEGF signaling pathway that holds significance for vascular homeostasis but is dispensable for the angiogenic cascade.
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              Nitric oxide production contributes to the angiogenic properties of vascular endothelial growth factor in human endothelial cells.

              Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a regulator of vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. To investigate the role of nitric oxide (NO) in VEGF-induced proliferation and in vitro angiogenesis, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were used. VEGF stimulated the growth of HUVEC in an NO-dependent manner. In addition, VEGF promoted the NO-dependent formation of network-like structures in HUVEC cultured in three dimensional (3D) collagen gels. Exposure of cells to VEGF led to a concentration-dependent increase in cGMP levels, an indicator of NO production, that was inhibited by nitro-L-arginine methyl ester. VEGF-stimulated NO production required activation of tyrosine kinases and increases in intracellular calcium, since tyrosine kinase inhibitors and calcium chelators attenuated VEGF-induced NO release. Moreover, two chemically distinct phosphoinositide 3 kinase (PI-3K) inhibitors attenuated NO release after VEGF stimulation. In addition, HUVEC incubated with VEGF for 24 h showed an increase in the amount of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) protein and the release of NO. In summary, both short- and long-term exposure of human EC to VEGF stimulates the release of biologically active NO. While long-term exposure increases eNOS protein levels, short-term stimulation with VEGF promotes NO release through mechanisms involving tyrosine and PI-3K kinases, suggesting that NO mediates aspects of VEGF signaling required for EC proliferation and organization in vitro.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Vasc Cell
                Vascular Cell
                BioMed Central
                2045-824X
                2011
                13 July 2011
                : 3
                : 15
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University/BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, 47 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, EH16 4TJ, UK
                [2 ]Department of Reproductive and Vascular Biology, Institute for Biomedical Research, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
                Article
                2045-824X-3-15
                10.1186/2045-824X-3-15
                3173355
                21752276
                Copyright ©2011 Ahmad et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research

                Cell biology

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