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1.  VEGF induces sensory and motor peripheral plasticity, alters bladder function, and promotes visceral sensitivity 
BMC Physiology  2012;12:15.
Background
This work tests the hypothesis that bladder instillation with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) modulates sensory and motor nerve plasticity, and, consequently, bladder function and visceral sensitivity.
In addition to C57BL/6J, ChAT-cre mice were used for visualization of bladder cholinergic nerves. The direct effect of VEGF on the density of sensory nerves expressing the transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily 1 (TRPV1) and cholinergic nerves (ChAT) was studied one week after one or two intravesical instillations of the growth factor.
To study the effects of VEGF on bladder function, mice were intravesically instilled with VEGF and urodynamic evaluation was assessed. VEGF-induced alteration in bladder dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons was performed on retrogradly labeled urinary bladder afferents by patch-clamp recording of voltage gated Na+ currents. Determination of VEGF-induced changes in sensitivity to abdominal mechanostimulation was performed by application of von Frey filaments.
Results
In addition to an overwhelming increase in TRPV1 immunoreactivity, VEGF instillation resulted in an increase in ChAT-directed expression of a fluorescent protein in several layers of the urinary bladder. Intravesical VEGF caused a profound change in the function of the urinary bladder: acute VEGF (1 week post VEGF treatment) reduced micturition pressure and longer treatment (2 weeks post-VEGF instillation) caused a substantial reduction in inter-micturition interval. In addition, intravesical VEGF resulted in an up-regulation of voltage gated Na+ channels (VGSC) in bladder DRG neurons and enhanced abdominal sensitivity to mechanical stimulation.
Conclusions
For the first time, evidence is presented indicating that VEGF instillation into the mouse bladder promotes a significant increase in peripheral nerve density together with alterations in bladder function and visceral sensitivity. The VEGF pathway is being proposed as a key modulator of neural plasticity in the pelvis and enhanced VEGF content may be associated with visceral hyperalgesia, abdominal discomfort, and/or pelvic pain.
doi:10.1186/1472-6793-12-15
PMCID: PMC3543727  PMID: 23249422
2.  Neuropilin-1/GIPC1 Signaling Regulates α5β1 Integrin Traffic and Function in Endothelial Cells 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(1):e1000025.
Neuropilin 1 (Nrp1) is a coreceptor for vascular endothelial growth factor A165 (VEGF-A165, VEGF-A164 in mice) and semaphorin 3A (SEMA3A). Nevertheless, Nrp1 null embryos display vascular defects that differ from those of mice lacking either VEGF-A164 or Sema3A proteins. Furthermore, it has been recently reported that Nrp1 is required for endothelial cell (EC) response to both VEGF-A165 and VEGF-A121 isoforms, the latter being incapable of binding Nrp1 on the EC surface. Taken together, these data suggest that the vascular phenotype caused by the loss of Nrp1 could be due to a VEGF-A164/SEMA3A-independent function of Nrp1 in ECs, such as adhesion to the extracellular matrix. By using RNA interference and rescue with wild-type and mutant constructs, we show here that Nrp1 through its cytoplasmic SEA motif and independently of VEGF-A165 and SEMA3A specifically promotes α5β1-integrin-mediated EC adhesion to fibronectin that is crucial for vascular development. We provide evidence that Nrp1, while not directly mediating cell spreading on fibronectin, interacts with α5β1 at adhesion sites. Binding of the homomultimeric endocytic adaptor GAIP interacting protein C terminus, member 1 (GIPC1), to the SEA motif of Nrp1 selectively stimulates the internalization of active α5β1 in Rab5-positive early endosomes. Accordingly, GIPC1, which also interacts with α5β1, and the associated motor myosin VI (Myo6) support active α5β1 endocytosis and EC adhesion to fibronectin. In conclusion, we propose that Nrp1, in addition to and independently of its role as coreceptor for VEGF-A165 and SEMA3A, stimulates through its cytoplasmic domain the spreading of ECs on fibronectin by increasing the Rab5/GIPC1/Myo6-dependent internalization of active α5β1. Nrp1 modulation of α5β1 integrin function can play a causal role in the generation of angiogenesis defects observed in Nrp1 null mice.
Author Summary
The vascular system is a hierarchical network of blood vessels lined by endothelial cells that, by means of the transmembrane integrin proteins, bind to the surrounding proteinaceous extracellular matrix (ECM). Integrins are required for proper cardiovascular development and exist in bent (inactive) and extended (active) shapes that are correspondingly unable and able to attach to the ECM. Extracellular guidance cues, such as vascular endothelial growth factor and semaphorins, bind the transmembrane protein neuropilin-1 (Nrp1) and then activate biochemical signals that, respectively, activate or inactivate endothelial integrins. Here, we show that Nrp1, via its short cytoplasmic domain and independently of vascular endothelial growth factor and semaphorins, specifically promotes endothelial cell attachment to the ECM protein fibronectin, which is known to be crucial for vascular development. Notably, Nrp1 favors cell adhesion by associating with fibronectin-binding integrins and promoting the fast vesicular traffic of their extended form back and forth from the endothelial cell-to-ECM contacts. Binding of the Nrp1 cytoplasmic domain with the adaptor protein GIPC1, which in turn associates with proteins required for integrin internalization and vesicle motility, is required as well. It is likely that such an integrin treadmill could act as a major regulator of cell adhesion in general.
The transmembrane protein neuropilin-1 promotes endothelial cell attachment to the extracellular matrix by enhancing active integrin treadmilling at cell-adhesion sites.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000025
PMCID: PMC2631072  PMID: 19175293
3.  Neuropilin-1 functions as a VEGFR2 co-receptor to guide developmental angiogenesis independent of ligand binding 
eLife  2014;3:e03720.
During development, tissue repair, and tumor growth, most blood vessel networks are generated through angiogenesis. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key regulator of this process and currently both VEGF and its receptors, VEGFR1, VEGFR2, and Neuropilin1 (NRP1), are targeted in therapeutic strategies for vascular disease and cancer. NRP1 is essential for vascular morphogenesis, but how NRP1 functions to guide vascular development has not been completely elucidated. In this study, we generated a mouse line harboring a point mutation in the endogenous Nrp1 locus that selectively abolishes VEGF-NRP1 binding (Nrp1VEGF−). Nrp1VEGF− mutants survive to adulthood with normal vasculature revealing that NRP1 functions independent of VEGF-NRP1 binding during developmental angiogenesis. Moreover, we found that Nrp1-deficient vessels have reduced VEGFR2 surface expression in vivo demonstrating that NRP1 regulates its co-receptor, VEGFR2. Given the resources invested in NRP1-targeted anti-angiogenesis therapies, our results will be integral for developing strategies to re-build vasculature in disease.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03720.001
eLife digest
Blood flows through blood vessels to carry oxygen and nutrients towards, and waste away from, the cells of the body. New blood vessels are formed not only during development but also throughout life as part of normal tissue growth and repair. However, blood vessels may also form as a consequence of diseases, such as cancer. For example, tumors often stimulate the growth of new blood vessels to ensure a good supply of blood carrying nutrients and oxygen. As such, some anti-cancer therapies try to stop blood vessels from developing in an attempt to slow down or prevent tumor growth.
New blood vessels often form by branching off from existing vessels. One molecule that stimulates this branching process is called vascular endothelial growth factor (or VEGF for short). Three ‘receptor’ proteins found on the outside of cells can bind to the VEGF molecule and then trigger a response inside the cell that guides the development of new blood vessels. VEGF and its receptor proteins—including one called NRP1—are being investigated as a possible target for drugs that could treat cancer and other diseases affecting blood vessels. However, the exact mechanisms that control the formation of new blood vessels are not fully understood, which makes it difficult to develop these treatments.
Now Gelfand et al. have created mice whose NRP1 receptors cannot bind VEGF. These mice unexpectedly survive to adulthood and develop normal blood vessels. This outcome is in contrast to mice that lack NRP1, which normally die as embryos and have severe defects with their nerves and blood vessels. Gelfand et al. instead found that mice that only lack NRP1 in the cells of their blood vessels had less of another receptor protein called VEGFR2 on the surface of these cells. This result suggests that NRP1 controls blood vessel development, not by binding to VEGF but by affecting how much of the VEGFR2 receptor is available to interact with VEGF.
These findings challenge the long-held view of how NRP1 functions and lead Gelfand et al. to suggest a new mechanism: NRP1 interacts with VEGFR2, rather than with VEGF, to control the formation of new blood vessels. Future work will aim to uncover how these interactions regulate the normal development of blood vessels, and if other molecules that bind to NRP1 are involved in this process. Furthermore, these findings may help to guide the on-going efforts to develop drugs that target NRP1 into treatments that are effective against diseases that involve problems with blood vessels—including diabetes, immune disorders, and cancer.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03720.002
doi:10.7554/eLife.03720
PMCID: PMC4197402  PMID: 25244320
Neuropilin-1; developmental angiogenesis; VEGFR2; VEGF; mouse genetics; mouse
4.  Neuropilin-1 Mediates Collapsin-1/Semaphorin III Inhibition of Endothelial Cell Motility 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;146(1):233-242.
Neuropilin-1 (NRP1) is a receptor for two unrelated ligands with disparate activities, vascular endothelial growth factor-165 (VEGF165), an angiogenesis factor, and semaphorin/collapsins, mediators of neuronal guidance. To determine whether semaphorin/collapsins could interact with NRP1 in nonneuronal cells, the effects of recombinant collapsin-1 on endothelial cells (EC) were examined. Collapsin-1 inhibited the motility of porcine aortic EC (PAEC) expressing NRP1 alone; coexpressing KDR and NRP1 (PAEC/KDR/NRP1), but not parental PAEC; or PAEC expressing KDR alone. The motility of PAEC expressing NRP1 was inhibited by 65–75% and this inhibition was abrogated by anti-NRP1 antibody. In contrast, VEGF165 stimulated the motility of PAEC/KDR/NRP1. When VEGF165 and collapsin-1 were added simultaneously to PAEC/KDR/NRP1, dorsal root ganglia (DRG), and COS-7/NRP1 cells, they competed with each other in EC motility, DRG collapse, and NRP1-binding assays, respectively, suggesting that the two ligands have overlapping NRP1 binding sites. Collapsin-1 rapidly disrupted the formation of lamellipodia and induced depolymerization of F-actin in an NRP1-dependent manner. In an in vitro angiogenesis assay, collapsin-1 inhibited the capillary sprouting of EC from rat aortic ring segments. These results suggest that collapsin-1 can inhibit EC motility as well as axon motility, that these inhibitory effects on motility are mediated by NRP1, and that VEGF165 and collapsin-1 compete for NRP1-binding sites.
PMCID: PMC2199727  PMID: 10402473
angiogenesis; chemotaxis; KDR; neuronal guidance; growth cones
5.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Induces Branching Morphogenesis/Tubulogenesis in Renal Epithelial Cells in a Neuropilin-Dependent Fashion 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(17):7441-7448.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is well characterized for its role in endothelial cell differentiation and vascular tube formation. Alternate splicing of the VEGF gene in mice results in various VEGF-A isoforms, including VEGF-121 and VEGF-165. VEGF-165 is the most abundant isoform in the kidney and has been implicated in glomerulogenesis. However, its role in the tubular epithelium is not known. We demonstrate that VEGF-165 but not VEGF-121 induces single-cell branching morphogenesis and multicellular tubulogenesis in mouse renal tubular epithelial cells and that these morphogenic effects require activation of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-K) and, to a lesser degree, the extracellular signal-regulated kinase and protein kinase C signaling pathways. Further, VEGF-165-stimulated sheet migration is dependent only on PI 3-K signaling. These morphogenic effects of VEGF-165 require activation of both VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) and neuropilin-1 (Nrp-1), since neutralizing antibodies to either of these receptors or the addition of semaphorin 3A (which blocks VEGF-165 binding to Nrp-1) prevents the morphogenic response and the phosphorylation of VEGFR-2 along with the downstream signaling. We thus conclude that in addition to endothelial vasculogenesis, VEGF can induce renal epithelial cell morphogenesis in a Nrp-1-dependent fashion.
doi:10.1128/MCB.25.17.7441-7448.2005
PMCID: PMC1190316  PMID: 16107693
6.  A Novel Physiological Glycosaminoglycan-Deficient Splice Variant of Neuropilin-1 Is Anti-Tumorigenic In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(10):e0165153.
Neuropilin-1 (NRP1) is a transmembrane protein acting as a co-receptor for several growth factors and interacting with other proteins such as integrins and plexins/semaphorins. It is involved in axonal development, angiogenesis and cancer progression. Its primary mRNA is subjected to alternative splicing mechanisms generating different isoforms, some of which lack the transmembrane domain and display antagonist properties to NRP1 full size (FS). NRP1 is further post-translationally modified by the addition of glycosaminoglycans (GAG) side chains through an O-glycosylation site at serine612. Here, we characterized a novel splice variant which has never been investigated, NRP1-Δ7, differing from the NRP1-FS by a deletion of 7 amino acids occurring two residues downstream of the O-glycosylation site. This short sequence contains two aspartic residues critical for efficient glycosylation. As expected, the high molecular weight products appearing as a smear in SDS-PAGE and reflecting the presence of GAG in NRP1-FS were undetectable in the NRP1-Δ7 protein. NRP1-Δ7 mRNA was found expressed at an appreciable level, between 10 and 30% of the total NRP1, by various cells lines and tissues from human and murine origin. To investigate the biological properties of this isoform, we generated prostatic (PC3) and breast (MDA-MB-231) cancer cells able to express recombinant NRP1-FS or NRP1-Δ7 in a doxycycline-inducible manner. Cells with increased expression of NRP1-Δ7 were characterized in vitro by a significant reduction of proliferation, migration and anchorage-independent growth, while NRP1-FS had the expected opposite “pro-tumoral” effects. Upon VEGF-A165 treatment, a lower internalization rate was observed for NRP1-Δ7 than for NRP1-FS. Finally, we showed that NRP1-Δ7 inhibited growth of prostatic tumors and their vascularization in vivo. This report identifies NRP1-Δ7 as a splice variant displaying anti-tumorigenic properties in vitro and in vivo, emphasizing the need to consider this isoform in future studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165153
PMCID: PMC5087894  PMID: 27798666
7.  Identification of circulating neuropilin-1 and dose-dependent elevation following anti-neuropilin-1 antibody administration 
mAbs  2009;1(4):364-369.
Neuropilin-1 (NRP1) acts as a co-receptor for class 3 semaphorins and vascular endothelial growth factor and is an attractive angiogenesis target for cancer therapy. In addition to the transmembrane form, naturally occurring soluble NRP1 proteins containing part of the extracellular domain have been identified in tissues and a cell line. We developed ELISAs to study the existence of circulating NRP1 and to quantify it in serum. As measured by ELISAs, circulating NRP1 levels in mice, rats, monkeys and humans were 427 ± 77, 20 ± 3, 288 ± 86 and 322 ± 82 ng/ml (mean ± standard deviation; n ≥ 10), respectively. Anti-NRP1B, a human monoclonal antibody, has been selected from a synthetic phage library. A 4-fold increase in circulating NRP1 was observed in mice receiving a single dose of 10 mg/kg anti-NRP1B antibody. In rats and monkeys receiving single injections of anti-NRP1B at different dose levels, higher doses of antibody resulted in greater and more prolonged increases in circulating NRP1. Maximum increases were 56- and 7-fold for rats and monkeys receiving 50 mg/kg anti-NRP1B, respectively. In addition to the soluble NRP1 isoforms, for the first time, a ∼120 kDa circulating NRP1 protein containing the complete extracellular domain was detected in serum by western blot and mass spectrometry analysis. This protein increased more than the putative soluble NRP1 bands in anti-NRP1B treated mouse, rat and monkey sera compared with untreated controls, suggesting that anti-NRP1B induced membrane NRP1 shedding.
PMCID: PMC2726604  PMID: 20068394
angiogenesis; soluble neuropilin-1; circulating neuropilin-1; anti-neuropilin-1; ELISA; serum
8.  Discriminators of mouse bladder response to intravesical Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) 
BMC Immunology  2007;8:6.
Background
Intravesical Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is an effective treatment for bladder superficial carcinoma and it is being tested in interstitial cystitis patients, but its precise mechanism of action remains poorly understood. It is not clear whether BCG induces the release of a unique set of cytokines apart from its pro-inflammatory effects. Therefore, we quantified bladder inflammatory responses and alterations in urinary cytokine protein induced by intravesical BCG and compared the results to non-specific pro-inflammatory stimuli (LPS and TNF-α). We went further to determine whether BCG treatment alters cytokine gene expression in the urinary bladder.
Methods
C57BL/6 female mice received four weekly instillations of BCG, LPS, or TNF-α. Morphometric analyses were conducted in bladders isolated from all groups and urine was collected for multiplex analysis of 18 cytokines. In addition, chromatin immune precipitation combined with real-time polymerase chain reaction assay (CHIP/Q-PCR) was used to test whether intravesical BCG would alter bladder cytokine gene expression.
Results
Acute BCG instillation induced edema which was progressively replaced by an inflammatory infiltrate, composed primarily of neutrophils, in response to weekly administrations. Our morphological analysis suggests that these polymorphonuclear neutrophils are of prime importance for the bladder responses to BCG. Overall, the inflammation induced by BCG was higher than LPS or TNF-α treatment but the major difference observed was the unique granuloma formation in response to BCG. Among the cytokines measured, this study highlighted the importance of IL-1β, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-17, GM-CSF, KC, and Rantes as discriminators between generalized inflammation and BCG-specific inflammatory responses. CHIP/Q-PCR indicates that acute BCG instillation induced an up-regulation of IL-17A, IL-17B, and IL-17RA, whereas chronic BCG induced IL-17B, IL-17RA, and IL-17RB.
Conclusion
To the best of our knowledge, the present work is the first to report that BCG induces an increase in the IL-17 family genes. In addition, BCG induces a unique type of persisting bladder inflammation different from TNF-α, LPS, and, most likely, other classical pro-inflammatory stimuli.
doi:10.1186/1471-2172-8-6
PMCID: PMC1891101  PMID: 17506885
9.  A mutated soluble neuropilin-2 B domain antagonizes VEGF bioactivity and inhibits tumor progression* 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2010;8(8):1063-1073.
Neuropilins (NRP1 and NRP2) are co-receptors for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and mediate angiogenesis and tumor progression. VEGF binds to the NRP1 and NRP2 B domains. Previously, it was shown that mutagenesis of the soluble NRP2 B domain (MutB-NRP2) increased affinity to VEGF by 8-fold. Here, we show that MutB-NRP2 inhibited 125I-VEGF binding to NRP1, NRP2 and VEGFR-2. It antagonized VEGF-induced VEGFR-2/NRP2 complex formation and inhibited VEGF-induced activation of AKT, a mediator of cell survival, without affecting activation of VEGFR-2. In 3D embryoid bodies (EB), a model of VEGF-induced angiogenesis, MutB-NRP2 inhibited VEGF-induced sprouting. When overexpressed in human melanoma cells, MutB-NRP2 inhibited tumor growth compared to control tumors. Avastin (Bevacizumab), a monoclonal antibody to VEGF, inhibited VEGF interactions with VEGFR-2, but not with NRPs. The combination of MutB-NRP2 and Avastin resulted in an enhanced inhibition of human melanoma tumor growth compared to MutB-NRP2 treatment only or Avastin treatment only. In conclusion, these results indicate that MutB-NRP2 is a novel antagonist of VEGF bioactivity and tumor progression.
doi:10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-10-0157
PMCID: PMC2923676  PMID: 20651020
10.  Gene expression profiling and functional analysis of angiogenic markers in murine collagen-induced arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(4):R169.
Introduction
Dysregulated angiogenesis is implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). To provide a more profound understanding of arthritis-associated angiogenesis, we evaluated the expression of angiogenesis-modulating genes at onset, peak and declining phases of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a well-established mouse model for RA.
Methods
CIA was induced in DBA/1 mice with type II collagen. Functional capillary density in synovial tissue of knee joints was determined by intravital fluorescence microscopy. To assess the ability of arthritic joint homogenates to induce angiogenesis, an endothelial chemotaxis assay and an in vivo matrigel plug assay were employed. The temporal expression profile of angiogenesis-related genes in arthritic paws was analysed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR using an angiogenesis focused array as well as gene specific PCR. Finally, we investigated the therapeutic effect of a monoclonal antibody specifically blocking the binding of VEGF to neuropilin (NRP)-1.
Results
Although arthritic paw homogenates displayed angiogenic activity in vitro and in vivo, and synovia of arthritic paws appeared highly vascularised on histological examination, the functional capillary density in arthritic knee synovia was significantly decreased, whereas capillary diameter was increased. Of the 84 genes analysed, 41 displayed a differential expression in arthritic paws as compared to control paws. Most significant alterations were seen at the peak of clinical arthritis. Increased mRNA expression could be observed for VEGF receptors (Flt-1, Flk-1, Nrp-1, Nrp-2), as well as for midkine, hepatocyte growth factor, insulin-like growth factor-1 and angiopoietin-1. Signalling through NRP-1 accounted in part for the chemotactic activity for endothelial cells observed in arthritic paw homogenates. Importantly, therapeutic administration of anti-NRP1B antibody significantly reduced disease severity and progression in CIA mice.
Conclusions
Our findings confirm that the arthritic synovium in murine CIA is a site of active angiogenesis, but an altered balance in the expression of angiogenic factors seems to favour the formation of non-functional and dilated capillaries. Furthermore, our results validate NRP-1 as a key player in the pathogenesis of CIA, and support the VEGF/VEGF receptor pathway as a potential therapeutic target in RA.
doi:10.1186/ar3922
PMCID: PMC3580563  PMID: 22817681
11.  Neuropilin-1 is a receptor for transforming growth factor β-1, activates its latent form, and promotes regulatory T cell activity 
Journal of Leukocyte Biology  2008;84(1):302-310.
Neuropilin-1 (Nrp1) is a multifunctional protein, identified principally as a receptor for the class 3 semaphorins and members of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family, but it is capable of other interactions. It is a marker of regulatory T cells (Tr), which often carry Nrp1 and latency-associated peptide (LAP)-TGF-β1 (the latent form). The signaling TGF-β1 receptors bind only active TGF-β1, and we hypothesized that Nrp1 binds the latent form. Indeed, we found that Nrp1 is a high-affinity receptor for latent and active TGF-β1. Free LAP, LAP-TGF-β1, and active TGF-β1 all competed with VEGF165 for binding to Nrp1. LAP has a basic, arginine-rich C-terminal motif similar to VEGF and peptides that bind to the b1 domain of Nrp1. A C-terminal LAP peptide (QSSRHRR) bound to Nrp1 and inhibited the binding of VEGF and LAP-TGF-β1. We also analyzed the effects of Nrp1/LAP-TGF-β1 coexpression on T cell function. Compared with Nrp1– cells, sorted Nrp1+ T cells had a much greater capacity to capture LAP-TGF-β1. Sorted Nrp1– T cells captured soluble Nrp1-Fc, and this increased their ability to capture LAP-TGF-β1. Conventional CD4+CD25–Nrp1– T cells coated with Nrp1-Fc/LAP-TGF-β1 acquired strong Tr activity. Moreover, LAP-TGF-β was activated by Nrp1-Fc and also by a peptide of the b2 domain of Nrp1 (RKFK; similar to a thrombospondin-1 peptide). Breast cancer cells, which express Nrp1, also captured and activated LAP-TGF-β1 in a Nrp1-dependent manner. Thus, Nrp1 is a receptor for TGF-β1, activates its latent form, and is relevant to Tr activity and tumor biology.
doi:10.1189/jlb.0208090
PMCID: PMC2504713  PMID: 18436584
binding motif; VEGF; LAP-TGF-β1; signal transduction; CD4+CD25–; T lymphocytes; suppressor cells
12.  Neuropilin-2 expression in breast cancer: correlation with lymph node metastasis, poor prognosis, and regulation of CXCR4 expression 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:220.
Background
Neuropilin-2 (Nrp2) is a receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C), which is a well-known lymphangiogenic factor and plays an important role in lymph node metastasis of various human cancers, including breast cancer. Recently, Nrp2 was shown to play a role in cancer by promoting tumor cell metastasis. CXC chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4) also promotes tumor metastasis. In the previous studies, we demonstrated that VEGF-C and cytoplasmic CXCR4 expressions were correlated with poorer patient prognosis (BMC Cancer 2008,8:340; Breast Cancer Res Treat 2005, 91:125–132).
Methods
The relationship between Nrp2 expression and lymph node metastasis, VEGF-C expression, CXCR4 expression, and other established clinicopathological variables (these data were cited in our previous papers), including prognosis, was analyzed in human breast cancer. Effects of neutralizing anti-Nrp2 antibody on CXCR4 expression and chemotaxis were assessed in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells.
Results
Nrp2 expression was observed in 53.1% (60 of 113) of the invasive breast carcinomas. Nrp2 expression was significantly correlated with lymph node metastasis, VEGF-C expression, and cytoplasmic CXCR4 expression. Survival curves determined by the Kaplan-Meier method showed that Nrp2 expression was associated with reduced overall survival. In multivariate analysis, Nrp2 expression emerged as a significant independent predictor for overall survival. Neutralizing anti-Nrp2 antibody blocks cytoplasmic CXCR4 expression and CXCR4-induced migration in MDA-MB-231 cells.
Conclusion
Nrp2 expression was correlated with lymph node metastasis, VEGF-C expression, and cytoplasmic CXCR4 expression. Nrp2 expression may serve as a significant prognostic factor for long-term survival in breast cancer. Our data also showed a role for Nrp2 in regulating cytoplasmic CXCR4 expression in vitro.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-220
PMCID: PMC2719661  PMID: 19580679
13.  Neuropilin 1 (NRP1) hypomorphism combined with defective VEGF-A binding reveals novel roles for NRP1 in developmental and pathological angiogenesis 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2014;141(3):556-562.
Neuropilin 1 (NRP1) is a receptor for class 3 semaphorins and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) A and is essential for cardiovascular development. Biochemical evidence supports a model for NRP1 function in which VEGF binding induces complex formation between NRP1 and VEGFR2 to enhance endothelial VEGF signalling. However, the relevance of VEGF binding to NRP1 for angiogenesis in vivo has not yet been examined. We therefore generated knock-in mice expressing Nrp1 with a mutation of tyrosine (Y) 297 in the VEGF binding pocket of the NRP1 b1 domain, as this residue was previously shown to be important for high affinity VEGF binding and NRP1-VEGFR2 complex formation. Unexpectedly, this targeting strategy also severely reduced NRP1 expression and therefore generated a NRP1 hypomorph. Despite the loss of VEGF binding and attenuated NRP1 expression, homozygous Nrp1Y297A/Y297A mice were born at normal Mendelian ratios, arguing against NRP1 functioning exclusively as a VEGF164 receptor in embryonic angiogenesis. By overcoming the mid-gestation lethality of full Nrp1-null mice, homozygous Nrp1Y297A/Y297A mice revealed essential roles for NRP1 in postnatal angiogenesis and arteriogenesis in the heart and retina, pathological neovascularisation of the retina and angiogenesis-dependent tumour growth.
doi:10.1242/dev.103028
PMCID: PMC3899814  PMID: 24401374
NRP1; VEGF; Angiogenesis; Arteriogenesis; Retina; Hindbrain
14.  Heparin binding VEGF isoforms attenuate hyperoxic embryonic lung growth retardation via a FLK1-neuropilin-1-PKC dependent pathway 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):32.
Background
Previous work in our laboratory demonstrated that hyperoxia suppressed the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) by the embryonic lung, leading to increased epithelial cell apoptosis and failure of explant airway growth and branching that was rescued by the addition of Vegf165. The aims of this study were to determine protective pathways by which VEGF isoforms attenuate hyperoxic lung growth retardation and to identify the target cell for VEGF action.
Methods
Timed pregnant CD-1 or fetal liver kinase (FLK1)-eGFP lung explants cultured in 3% or 50% oxygen were treated ± Vegf121, VEGF164/Vegf165 or VEGF188 in the presence or absence of anti-rat neuropilin-1 (NRP1) antibody or GO6983 (protein kinase C (PKC) pan-inhibitor) and lung growth and branching quantified. Immunofluorescence studies were performed to determine apoptosis index and location of FLK1 phosphorylation and western blot studies of lung explants were performed to define the signaling pathways that mediate the protective effects of VEGF.
Results
Heparin-binding VEGF isoforms (VEGF164/Vegf165 and VEGF188) but not Vegf121 selectively reduced epithelial apoptosis and partially rescued lung bud branching and growth. These protective effects required NRP1-dependent FLK1 activation in endothelial cells. Analysis of downstream signaling pathways demonstrated that the VEGF-mediated anti-apoptotic effects were dependent on PKC activation.
Conclusions
Vegf165 activates FLK1-NRP1 signaling in endothelial cells, leading to a PKC-dependent paracrine signal that in turn inhibits epithelial cell apoptosis.
doi:10.1186/1465-9921-15-32
PMCID: PMC4004166  PMID: 24641672
VEGF; Branching morphogenesis; Hyperoxia; Lung explant; Apoptosis
15.  A Novel Tumor-Promoting Function Residing in the 5′ Non-coding Region of vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e94.
Background
Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF) is one of the key regulators of tumor development, hence it is considered to be an important therapeutic target for cancer treatment. However, clinical trials have suggested that anti-VEGF monotherapy was less effective than standard chemotherapy. On the basis of the evidence, we hypothesized that vegf mRNA may have unrecognized function(s) in cancer cells.
Methods and Findings
Knockdown of VEGF with vegf-targeting small-interfering (si) RNAs increased susceptibility of human colon cancer cell line (HCT116) to apoptosis caused with 5-fluorouracil, etoposide, or doxorubicin. Recombinant human VEGF165 did not completely inhibit this apoptosis. Conversely, overexpression of VEGF165 increased resistance to anti-cancer drug-induced apoptosis, while an anti-VEGF165-neutralizing antibody did not completely block the resistance. We prepared plasmids encoding full-length vegf mRNA with mutation of signal sequence, vegf mRNAs lacking untranslated regions (UTRs), or mutated 5′UTRs. Using these plasmids, we revealed that the 5′UTR of vegf mRNA possessed anti-apoptotic activity. The 5′UTR-mediated activity was not affected by a protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide. We established HCT116 clones stably expressing either the vegf 5′UTR or the mutated 5′UTR. The clones expressing the 5′UTR, but not the mutated one, showed increased anchorage-independent growth in vitro and formed progressive tumors when implanted in athymic nude mice. Microarray and quantitative real-time PCR analyses indicated that the vegf 5′UTR-expressing tumors had up-regulated anti-apoptotic genes, multidrug-resistant genes, and growth-promoting genes, while pro-apoptotic genes were down-regulated. Notably, expression of signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1) was markedly repressed in the 5′UTR-expressing tumors, resulting in down-regulation of a STAT1-responsive cluster of genes (43 genes). As a result, the tumors did not respond to interferon (IFN)α therapy at all. We showed that stable silencing of endogenous vegf mRNA in HCT116 cells enhanced both STAT1 expression and IFNα responses.
Conclusions
These findings suggest that cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and imply that both vegf mRNA and its protein may synergistically promote the malignancy of tumor cells. Therefore, combination of anti-vegf transcript strategies, such as siRNA-based gene silencing, with anti-VEGF antibody treatment may improve anti-cancer therapies that target VEGF.
Shigetada Teshima-Kondo and colleagues find that cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and that vegf mRNA and its protein may synergistically promote the malignancy of tumor cells.
Editors' Summary
Background
Normally, throughout life, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are carefully balanced to keep the body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—disorganized masses of cells. When a cancer is small, it uses the body's existing blood supply to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs for its growth and survival. But, when it gets bigger, it has to develop its own blood supply. This process is called angiogenesis. It involves the release by the cancer cells of proteins called growth factors that bind to other proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels). The receptors then send signals into the endothelial cells that tell them to make new blood vessels. One important angiogenic growth factor is “vascular endothelial growth factor” (VEGF). Tumors that make large amounts of VEGF tend to be more abnormal and more aggressive than those that make less VEGF. In addition, high levels of VEGF in the blood are often associated with poor responses to chemotherapy, drug regimens designed to kill cancer cells.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because VEGF is a key regulator of tumor development, several anti-VEGF therapies—drugs that target VEGF and its receptors—have been developed. These therapies strongly suppress the growth of tumor cells in the laboratory and in animals but, when used alone, are no better at increasing the survival times of patients with cancer than standard chemotherapy. Scientists are now looking for an explanation for this disappointing result. Like all proteins, cells make VEGF by “transcribing” its DNA blueprint into an mRNA copy (vegf mRNA), the coding region of which is “translated” into the VEGF protein. Other, “noncoding” regions of vegf mRNA control when and where VEGF is made. Scientists have recently discovered that the noncoding regions of some mRNAs suppress tumor development. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate whether vegf mRNA has an unrecognized function in tumor cells that could explain the disappointing clinical results of anti-VEGF therapeutics.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first used a technique called small interfering (si) RNA knockdown to stop VEGF expression in human colon cancer cells growing in dishes. siRNAs are short RNAs that bind to and destroy specific mRNAs in cells, thereby preventing the translation of those mRNAs into proteins. The treatment of human colon cancer cells with vegf-targeting siRNAs made the cells more sensitive to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis (a type of cell death). This sensitivity was only partly reversed by adding VEGF to the cells. By contrast, cancer cells engineered to make more vegf mRNA had increased resistance to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Treatment of these cells with an antibody that inhibited VEGF function did not completely block this resistance. Together, these results suggest that both vegf mRNA and VEGF protein have anti-apoptotic effects. The researchers show that the anti-apoptotic activity of vegf mRNA requires a noncoding part of the mRNA called the 5′ UTR, and that whereas human colon cancer cells expressing this 5′ UTR form tumors in mice, cells expressing a mutated 5′ UTR do not. Finally, they report that the expression of several pro-apoptotic genes and of an anti-tumor pathway known as the interferon/STAT1 tumor suppression pathway is down-regulated in tumors that express the vegf 5′ UTR.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that some cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and are the first to show that a 5′UTR of mRNA can promote tumor growth. They indicate that VEGF and its mRNA work together to promote their development and to increase their resistance to chemotherapy drugs. They suggest that combining therapies that prevent the production of vegf mRNA (for example, siRNA-based gene silencing) with therapies that block the function of VEGF might improve survival times for patients whose tumors overexpress VEGF.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050094.
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Hughes and Jones
The US National Cancer Institute provides information about all aspects of cancer, including information on angiogenesis, and on bevacizumab, an anti-VEGF therapeutic (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, from Emory University, provides information on all aspects of cancer, including angiogenesis (in several languages)
Cancer Research UK also provides basic information about what causes cancers and how they develop, grow, and spread, including information about angiogenesis
Wikipedia has pages on VEGF and on siRNA (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050094
PMCID: PMC2386836  PMID: 18494554
16.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Mediates Intracrine Survival in Human Breast Carcinoma Cells through Internally Expressed VEGFR1/FLT1 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e186.
Background
While vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in breast tumors has been correlated with a poor outcome in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, the expression, localization, and function of VEGF receptors VEGFR1 (also known as FLT1) and VEGFR2 (also known as KDR or FLK1), as well as neuropilin 1 (NRP1), in breast cancer are controversial.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the expression and function of VEGF and VEGF receptors in breast cancer cells. We observed that VEGFR1 expression was abundant, VEGFR2 expression was low, and NRP1 expression was variable. MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells, transfected with antisense VEGF cDNA or with siVEGF (VEGF-targeted small interfering RNA), showed a significant reduction in VEGF expression and increased apoptosis as compared to the control cells. Additionally, specifically targeted knockdown of VEGFR1 expression by siRNA (siVEGFR1) significantly decreased the survival of breast cancer cells through down-regulation of protein kinase B (AKT) phosphorylation, while targeted knockdown of VEGFR2 or NRP1 expression had no effect on the survival of these cancer cells. Since a VEGFR1-specific ligand, placenta growth factor (PGF), did not, as expected, inhibit the breast cancer cell apoptosis induced by siVEGF, and since VEGFR1 antibody also had no effects on the survival of these cells, we examined VEGFR1 localization. VEGFR1 was predominantly expressed internally in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Specifically, VEGFR1 was found to be colocalized with lamin A/C and was expressed mainly in the nuclear envelope in breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer tumors. Breast cancer cells treated with siVEGFR1 showed significantly decreased VEGFR1 expression levels and a lack of VEGFR1 expression in the nuclear envelope.
Conclusions
This study provides, to our knowledge for the first time, evidence of a unique survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF can act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1. These results may lead to an improved strategy for tumor therapy based on the inhibition of angiogenesis.
Shalom Avraham and colleagues' study provides evidence of a survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF acts as an internal autocrine survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1.
Editors' Summary
Background.
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Most of these women live for many years after their diagnosis and many are cured of their cancer. However, sometimes the cancer grows inexorably and spreads (metastasizes) around the body despite the efforts of oncologists. Characteristics of the tumor known as prognostic factors can indicate whether this spreading is likely to happen. Large tumors that have metastasized have a poorer prognosis than small tumors that are confined to the breast. The expression of specific proteins within the tumor also provides prognostic information. One protein whose expression is associated with a poor prognosis is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF stimulates angiogenesis—the growth of new blood vessels. Small tumors get the nutrients needed for their growth from existing blood vessels but large tumors need to organize their own blood supply. They do this, in part, by secreting VEGF. This compound binds to proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels), which then send a signal into the cell instructing it to make new blood vessels. Angiogenesis inhibitors, including molecules that block the activity of VEGF receptors, are being developed for the treatment of cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some breast cancer cell lines (cells isolated from breast cancers and grown in the laboratory) make VEGF and VEGF receptors (VEGFR1, VEGFR2, and neuropilin 1 [NRP1]). But, although some studies have reported an association between VEGFR1 expression in breast tumors and a poor prognosis, other studies have found no expression of VEGFR1 in breast tumors. Consequently, the role of VEGF receptors in breast cancer is unclear. In this study, the researchers analyzed the expression and function of VEGF and its receptors in breast cancer cells to investigate whether and how VEGF helps these cells to survive.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first examined the expression of VEGF receptors in several human breast cancer cell lines. All of them expressed VEGFR1, some expressed NRP1, but VEGFR2 expression was universally low. They then investigated the function of VEGF and its receptors in two human breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7). In both cell lines, blocking the expression of VEGF or of VEGFR1 (but not of the other two receptors) reduced cell survival by stimulating a specific process of cell death called apoptosis. Unexpectedly, adding VEGF to the cultures did not reverse the effect of blocking VEGF expression, a result that suggests that VEGF and VEGFR1 do not affect breast cancer cell survival by acting at the cell surface. Accordingly, when the researchers examined where VEGFR1 occurs in the cell, they found it on the membranes around the nucleus of the breast cancer cell lines and not on the cell surface; several primary breast tumors and normal breast tissue had the same localization pattern. Finally, the researchers showed that inhibitors of VEGF action that act at the cell surface did not affect the survival of the breast cancer cell lines.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that VEGF helps breast cancer cells to survive in a unique way: by binding to VEGFR1 inside the cell. In other words, whereas VEGF normally acts as a paracrine growth factor (it is released by one cell and affects another cell), in breast cancer cells it might act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor, a factor that affects the cells in which it is produced. These findings need confirming in more cell lines and in primary breast cancers but could have important implications for the treatment of breast cancer. Inhibitors of VEGF and VEGFR1 that act inside the cell (small molecule drugs) might block breast cancer growth more effectively than inhibitors that act at the cell surface (for example, proteins that bind to the receptor), because internally acting inhibitors might both kill the tumor directly and have antiangiogenic effects, whereas externally acting inhibitors could only have the second effect.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040186.
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on breast cancer (in English and Spanish) and on angiogenesis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus Encyclopedia information for patients on breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, information from Emory University on cancer biology and on angiogenesis and angiogenesis inhibitors (in several languages)
Wikipedia pages on VEGF (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040186
PMCID: PMC1885450  PMID: 17550303
17.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Mediates Corneal Nerve Repair 
Purpose
To examine the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors in the cornea and the trigeminal ganglion and to characterize the role of VEGF in mediating corneal nerve repair.
Methods
Regeneration of the corneal subbasal nerve plexus after epithelial debridement was measured. The expression of VEGF and its receptors was examined in the trigeminal ganglia and in the cornea by RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and Western blotting. VEGF-mediated nerve growth was measured in a trigeminal ganglia explant assay. Anti–VEGF neutralizing antibody was used to examine the VEGF-dependent growth of neurons in vitro and regeneration of the corneal nerves in vivo.
Results
After two distinct patterns of nerve regeneration, the subbasal nerves recovered to 65% of the preinjury density after 28 days. RT-PCR demonstrated gene expression of VEGF and VEGF receptors in the trigeminal ganglia. Immunohistochemistry showed staining for VEGF and its receptors in the trigeminal ganglia and for VEGFR1, VEGFR2, and neuropilin (NRP)-1 in the cornea. Western blot confirmed these results. In vitro, VEGF promoted the growth of explanted trigeminal ganglia by 91%. Blockage of VEGF signaling with anti–VEGF antibody reduced the growth of cultured neurons by 17% and the regeneration of subbasal neurons by 23%.
Conclusions
In addition to providing new information on the regeneration of murine corneal nerves, this study presents evidence that VEGF signaling influences the repair of corneal nerves by demonstrating that VEGF and VEGF receptors are present in the trigeminal ganglia and that abrogation of VEGF signaling reduces nerve growth in vitro and in vivo.
doi:10.1167/iovs.07-1418
PMCID: PMC3725763  PMID: 18487369
18.  Regulation of alternative VEGF-A mRNA splicing is a therapeutic target for analgesia☆ 
Neurobiology of Disease  2014;71:245-259.
Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) is best known as a key regulator of the formation of new blood vessels. Neutralization of VEGF-A with anti-VEGF therapy e.g. bevacizumab, can be painful, and this is hypothesized to result from a loss of VEGF-A-mediated neuroprotection. The multiple vegf-a gene products consist of two alternatively spliced families, typified by VEGF-A165a and VEGF-A165b (both contain 165 amino acids), both of which are neuroprotective. Under pathological conditions, such as in inflammation and cancer, the pro-angiogenic VEGF-A165a is upregulated and predominates over the VEGF-A165b isoform.
We show here that in rats and mice VEGF-A165a and VEGF-A165b have opposing effects on pain, and that blocking the proximal splicing event – leading to the preferential expression of VEGF-A165b over VEGF165a – prevents pain in vivo. VEGF-A165a sensitizes peripheral nociceptive neurons through actions on VEGFR2 and a TRPV1-dependent mechanism, thus enhancing nociceptive signaling. VEGF-A165b blocks the effect of VEGF-A165a.
After nerve injury, the endogenous balance of VEGF-A isoforms switches to greater expression of VEGF-Axxxa compared to VEGF-Axxxb, through an SRPK1-dependent pre-mRNA splicing mechanism. Pharmacological inhibition of SRPK1 after traumatic nerve injury selectively reduced VEGF-Axxxa expression and reversed associated neuropathic pain. Exogenous VEGF-A165b also ameliorated neuropathic pain.
We conclude that the relative levels of alternatively spliced VEGF-A isoforms are critical for pain modulation under both normal conditions and in sensory neuropathy. Altering VEGF-Axxxa/VEGF-Axxxb balance by targeting alternative RNA splicing may be a new analgesic strategy.
Graphical abstract
Highlights
•The different vegf-a splice variants, VEGF-A165a and VEGF-A165b have pro- and anti-nociceptive actions respectively.•Pro-nociceptive actions of VEGF-A165a are dependent on TRPV1.•Alternative pre-mRNA splicing underpins peripheral sensitization by VEGF-A isoforms in normal and neuropathic animals.
doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2014.08.012
PMCID: PMC4194316  PMID: 25151644
VEGF-A, vascular endothelial growth factor-A; SRPK1, serine arginine protein kinase 1; SRSF1, serine arginine splice factor 1; VEGFR2, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2; IB4, isolectin B4; TRPV1, transient receptor potential vanilloid 1; CV, conduction velocity; PSNI, partial saphenous nerve ligation injury; DRG, dorsal root ganglia; Vascular endothelial growth factor A; Alternative mRNA splicing; Neuropathy; Nociceptors
19.  Molecular networks discriminating mouse bladder responses to intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), LPS, and TNF-α 
BMC Immunology  2008;9:4.
Background
Despite being a mainstay for treating superficial bladder carcinoma and a promising agent for interstitial cystitis, the precise mechanism of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) remains poorly understood. It is particularly unclear whether BCG is capable of altering gene expression in the bladder target organ beyond its well-recognized pro-inflammatory effects and how this relates to its therapeutic efficacy. The objective of this study was to determine differentially expressed genes in the mouse bladder following chronic intravesical BCG therapy and to compare the results to non-specific pro inflammatory stimuli (LPS and TNF-α). For this purpose, C57BL/6 female mice received four weekly instillations of BCG, LPS, or TNF-α. Seven days after the last instillation, the urothelium along with the submucosa was removed from detrusor muscle and the RNA was extracted from both layers for cDNA array experiments. Microarray results were normalized by a robust regression analysis and only genes with an expression above a conditional threshold of 0.001 (3SD above background) were selected for analysis. Next, genes presenting a 3-fold ratio in regard to the control group were entered in Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) for a comparative analysis in order to determine genes specifically regulated by BCG, TNF-α, and LPS. In addition, the transcriptome was precipitated with an antibody against RNA polymerase II and real-time polymerase chain reaction assay (Q-PCR) was used to confirm some of the BCG-specific transcripts.
Results
Molecular networks of treatment-specific genes generated several hypotheses regarding the mode of action of BCG. BCG-specific genes involved small GTPases and BCG-specific networks overlapped with the following canonical signaling pathways: axonal guidance, B cell receptor, aryl hydrocarbon receptor, IL-6, PPAR, Wnt/β-catenin, and cAMP. In addition, a specific detrusor network expressed a high degree of overlap with the development of the lymphatic system. Interestingly, TNF-α-specific networks overlapped with the following canonical signaling pathways: PPAR, death receptor, and apoptosis. Finally, LPS-specific networks overlapped with the LPS/IL-1 mediated inhibition of RXR. Because NF-kappaB occupied a central position in several networks, we further determined whether this transcription factor was part of the responses to BCG. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays confirmed the participation of NF-kappaB in the mouse bladder responses to BCG. In addition, BCG treatment of a human urothelial cancer cell line (J82) also increased the binding activity of NF-kappaB, as determined by precipitation of the chromatin by a NF-kappaB-p65 antibody and Q-PCR of genes bearing a NF-kappaB consensus sequence. Next, we tested the hypothesis of whether small GTPases such as LRG-47 are involved in the uptake of BCG by the bladder urothelium.
Conclusion
As expected, BCG treatment induces the transcription of genes belonging to common pro-inflammatory networks. However, BCG also induces unique genes belonging to molecular networks involved in axonal guidance and lymphatic system development within the bladder target organ. In addition, NF-kappaB seems to play a predominant role in the bladder responses to BCG therapy. Finally, in intact urothelium, BCG-GFP internalizes in LRG-47-positive vesicles.
These results provide a molecular framework for the further study of the involvement of immune and nervous systems in the bladder responses to BCG therapy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2172-9-4
PMCID: PMC2262873  PMID: 18267009
20.  Functional Relevance of the Switch of VEGF Receptors/Co-Receptors during Peritoneal Dialysis-Induced Mesothelial to Mesenchymal Transition 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60776.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is up-regulated during mesothelial to mesenchymal transition (MMT) and has been associated with peritoneal membrane dysfunction in peritoneal dialysis (PD) patients. It has been shown that normal and malignant mesothelial cells (MCs) express VEGF receptors (VEGFRs) and co-receptors and that VEGF is an autocrine growth factor for mesothelioma. Hence, we evaluated the expression patterns and the functional relevance of the VEGF/VEGFRs/co-receptors axis during the mesenchymal conversion of MCs induced by peritoneal dialysis. Omentum-derived MCs treated with TGF-β1 plus IL-1β (in vitro MMT) and PD effluent-derived MCs with non-epithelioid phenotype (ex vivo MMT) showed down-regulated expression of the two main receptors Flt-1/VEGFR-1 and KDR/VEGFR-2, whereas the co-receptor neuropilin-1 (Nrp-1) was up-regulated. The expression of the Nrp-1 ligand semaphorin-3A (Sema-3A), a functional VEGF competitor, was repressed throughout the MMT process. These expression pattern changes were accompanied by a reduction of the proliferation capacity and by a parallel induction of the invasive capacity of MCs that had undergone an in vitro or ex vivo MMT. Treatment with neutralizing anti-VEGF or anti-Nrp-1 antibodies showed that these molecules played a relevant role in cellular proliferation only in naïve omentum-derived MCs. Conversely, treatment with these blocking antibodies, as well as with recombinant Sema-3A, indicated that the switched VEGF/VEGFRs/co-receptors axis drove the enhanced invasion capacity of MCs undergoing MMT. In conclusion, the expression patterns of VEGFRs and co-receptors change in MCs during MMT, which in turn would determine their behaviour in terms of proliferation and invasion in response to VEGF.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060776
PMCID: PMC3621952  PMID: 23585849
21.  Neuropilin 1 Is Essential for Gastrointestinal Smooth Muscle Contractility and Motility in Aged Mice 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0115563.
Background and Aims
Neuropilin 1 (NRP1) is a non-tyrosine kinase receptor for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and class 3 semaphorins, playing a role in angiogenesis and neuronal axon guidance, respectively. NRP1 is expressed in smooth muscle cells (SMC) but the functional role of NRP1 in SMC has not been elucidated. We therefore investigated the biological relevance of NRP1 in SMC in vivo by generating mice with SMC-specific Nrp1 deficiency.
Methods
Conditional gene targeting generated SMC-specific Nrp1 knockout mice (Nrp1SMKO) in which Cre recombinase is driven by the smooth muscle-specific myosin heavy chain (smMHC) promoter.
Results
SMC-specific Nrp1 deficiency resulted in a significant reduction in intestinal length by 6 months, and, by 18 months, in severe constipation, and enlargement of the intestine consistent with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction. These effects were associated with significant thinning of the intestinal smooth muscle, and decreased intestinal contractility. Expression of contractile proteins was reduced in Nrp1SMKO mice, including the smMHC isoform, SMB, whereas we observed a significant increase in the expression of the small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channel 3 (SK3/KCa2.3), implicated in negative regulation of smooth muscle contraction.
Conclusions
Nrp1 deficiency in visceral SMC results in adult-onset defects in gastrointestinal contractility and motility and causes a shift to a less contractile SMC phenotype. These findings indicate a new role for Nrp1 in the maintenance of the visceral SMC contractile phenotype required for normal GI motility in aged mice.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115563
PMCID: PMC4319892  PMID: 25659123
22.  Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of VEGF-neutralizing antibodies 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:193.
Background
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent regulator of angiogenesis, and its role in cancer biology has been widely studied. Many cancer therapies target angiogenesis, with a focus being on VEGF-mediated signaling such as antibodies to VEGF. However, it is difficult to predict the effects of VEGF-neutralizing agents. We have developed a whole-body model of VEGF kinetics and transport under pathological conditions (in the presence of breast tumor). The model includes two major VEGF isoforms VEGF121 and VEGF165, receptors VEGFR1, VEGFR2 and co-receptors Neuropilin-1 and Neuropilin-2. We have added receptors on parenchymal cells (muscle fibers and tumor cells), and incorporated experimental data for the cell surface density of receptors on the endothelial cells, myocytes, and tumor cells. The model is applied to investigate the action of VEGF-neutralizing agents (called "anti-VEGF") in the treatment of cancer.
Results
Through a sensitivity study, we examine how model parameters influence the level of free VEGF in the tumor, a measure of the response to VEGF-neutralizing drugs. We investigate the effects of systemic properties such as microvascular permeability and lymphatic flow, and of drug characteristics such as the clearance rate and binding affinity. We predict that increasing microvascular permeability in the tumor above 10-5 cm/s elicits the undesired effect of increasing tumor interstitial VEGF concentration beyond even the baseline level. We also examine the impact of the tumor microenvironment, including receptor expression and internalization, as well as VEGF secretion. We find that following anti-VEGF treatment, the concentration of free VEGF in the tumor can vary between 7 and 233 pM, with a dependence on both the density of VEGF receptors and co-receptors and the rate of neuropilin internalization on tumor cells. Finally, we predict that free VEGF in the tumor is reduced following anti-VEGF treatment when VEGF121 comprises at least 25% of the VEGF secreted by tumor cells.
Conclusions
This study explores the optimal drug characteristics required for an anti-VEGF agent to have a therapeutic effect and the tumor-specific properties that influence the response to therapy. Our model provides a framework for investigating the use of VEGF-neutralizing drugs for personalized medicine treatment strategies.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-193
PMCID: PMC3229549  PMID: 22104283
23.  Prognostic value and in vitro biological relevance of Neuropilin 1 and Neuropilin 2 in osteosarcoma 
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy in osteosarcoma increased the long-term survival of patients with localized disease considerably but metastasizing osteosarcoma remained largely treatment resistant. Neuropilins, transmembrane glycoproteins, are important receptors for VEGF dependent hyper-vascularization in tumor angiogenesis and their aberrant expression promotes tumorigenesis and metastasis in many solid tumors. Our analysis of Neuropilin-1 (NRP1) and Neuropilin-2 (NRP2) immunostaining in a tissue microarray of 66 osteosarcoma patients identified NRP2 as an indicator of poor overall, metastasis-free and progression free survival while NRP1 had no predictive value. Patients with tumors that expressed NRP2 in the absence of NRP1 had a significantly worse prognosis than NRP1-/NRP2-, NRP1+ or NRP1+/NRP2+ tumors. Moreover, patients with overt metastases and with NRP2-positive primary tumors had a significantly shorter survival rate than patients with metastases but NRP2-negative tumors. Furthermore, the expression of both NRP1 and NRP2 in osteosarcoma cell lines correlated to a variable degree with the metastatic potential of the respective cell line. To address the functional relevance of Neuropilins for VEGF signaling we used shRNA mediated down-regulation and blocking antibodies of NRP1 and NRP2 in the metastatic 143B and HuO9-M132 cell lines. In 143B cells, VEGFA signaling monitored by AKT phosphorylation was more inhibited by blocking of NRP1, whereas in HuO9-M132 cells NRP2 blocking was more effective indicating that NRP1 and NRP2 can substitute each other in the functional interaction with VEGFR1. Altogether, these data point to NRP2 as a powerful prognostic marker in osteosarcoma and together with NRP1 as a novel target for tumor-suppressive therapy.
PMCID: PMC4448203  PMID: 26045903
Osteosarcoma; tissue microarray; Neuropilin; VEGF
24.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Semaphorin Induce Neuropilin-1 Endocytosis via Separate Pathways 
Circulation research  2008;103(6):e71-e79.
The neuropilin (Nrp)1 receptor is essential for both nervous and vascular system development. Nrp1 is unusually versatile, because it transmits both chemoattractive and repulsive signals in response to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A and class 3 semaphorins, respectively. Both Nrp1 and VEGF receptor 2 undergo ligand-dependent endocytosis. We sought to establish the endocytic pathway of Nrp1 and to determine whether uptake is required for its signaling. Whereas Nrp1 underwent clathrin-dependent endocytosis in response to VEGFA165 treatment, semaphorin 3C (sema3C) induced lipid raft–dependent endocytosis. The myosin VI PDZ (postsynaptic density 95, Disk large, Zona occludens-1) adaptor protein synectin was essential for Nrp1 trafficking. Sema3C failed to inhibit migration of synectin−/− endothelial cells, mirroring the lower migratory response of these cells to VEGFA165. These results show that the endocytic pathway of Nrp1 is determined by its ligand and that the trafficking of Nrp1 is essential for its signaling.
doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.108.183327
PMCID: PMC2674948  PMID: 18723443
neuropilin-1; VEGFR2; endocytosis; lipid rafts
25.  VEGF189 binds NRP1 and is sufficient for VEGF/NRP1-dependent neuronal patterning in the developing brain 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2015;142(2):314-319.
The vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA, VEGF) regulates neurovascular patterning. Alternative splicing of the Vegfa gene gives rise to three major isoforms termed VEGF121, VEGF165 and VEGF189. VEGF165 binds the transmembrane protein neuropilin 1 (NRP1) and promotes the migration, survival and axon guidance of subsets of neurons, whereas VEGF121 cannot activate NRP1-dependent neuronal responses. By contrast, the role of VEGF189 in NRP1-mediated signalling pathways has not yet been examined. Here, we have combined expression studies and in situ ligand-binding assays with the analysis of genetically altered mice and in vitro models to demonstrate that VEGF189 can bind NRP1 and promote NRP1-dependent neuronal responses.
Summary: Although VEGF165 was thought to be the sole VEGF isoform acting through neuropilin 1 (NRP1), VEGF189 also binds to and signals through NRP1 in several types of developing mouse neurons.
doi:10.1242/dev.115998
PMCID: PMC4302834  PMID: 25519242
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF); VEGF189; Neuron; Neuropilin; Mouse

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