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Microvascular endothelial cells in vivo exhibit a plastic phenotype, forming a nonproliferative, differentiated capillary network, while retaining their ability to respond to injury by proliferation, migration and neovascularization. The presence of PDGF receptors and PDGF responsiveness in microvascular endothelial cells and the significance of PDGF isoforms in the control of endothelial cell growth and differentiation remain controversial. Since culture of microvascular endothelial cells in a three-dimensional (3D) system induced cell differentiation and angiogenesis and inhibited proliferation, the present study investigates the role of different extracellular matrix environments in inducing different microvascular endothelial cell phenotypes on microvascular endothelial cell PDGF receptor expression and PDGF responsiveness. In conventional two-dimensional (2D) culture, microvascular endothelial cells expressed both PDGF receptor alpha and beta chains. Suramin treatment demonstrated continuous downregulation of the alpha receptor surface expression. PDGF BB and, to a lesser extent, PDGF AB were mitogenic in 2D-culture, PDGF AA failed to induce any proliferative response despite inducing receptor autophosphorylation. During in vitro angiogenesis induced by 3D-culture, both PDGF receptors were rapidly downregulated. Assessment of cell proliferation showed quiescent cells and PDGF unresponsiveness. We conclude that the induction of a differentiated phenotype during in vitro angiogenesis (tube formation) driven in part by the spatial organization of the surrounding matrix is associated with a downregulation of PDGF receptors. Identification of the molecular cell-matrix interactions involved in this receptor regulation may allow for targeted manipulation of cell growth in vivo and lead to novel therapeutic applications for PDGF.