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1.  Vascular islands during microvascular regression and regrowth in adult networks 
Objective: Angiogenesis is the growth of new vessels from pre-existing vessels and commonly associated with two modes: capillary sprouting and capillary splitting. Previous work by our laboratory suggests vascular island incorporation might be another endothelial cell dynamic involved in microvascular remodeling. Vascular islands are defined as endothelial cell segments disconnected from nearby networks, but their origin remains unclear. The objective of this study was to determine whether vascular islands associated with microvascular regression are involved in network regrowth.
Methods: Mesenteric tissues were harvested from adult male Wistar rats according to the experimental groups: unstimulated, post stimulation (10 and 70 days), and 70 days post stimulation + restimulation (3 and 10 days). Stimulation was induced by mast cell degranulation via intraperitoneal injections of compound 48/80. Tissues were immunolabeled for PECAM (endothelial cells), neuron-glial antigen 2 (NG2) (pericytes), collagen IV (basement membrane), and BrdU (proliferation).
Results: Percent vascular area per tissue area and length density increased by day 10 post stimulation compared to the unstimulated group. At day 70, vascular area and length density were then decreased, indicating vascular regression compared to the day 10 levels. The number of vascular islands at day 10 post stimulation was dramatically reduced compared to the unstimulated group. During regression at day 70, the number of islands increased. The disconnected endothelial cells were commonly bridged to surrounding networks by collagen IV labeling. NG2-positive pericytes were observed both along the islands and the collagen IV tracks. At 3 days post restimulation, vascular islands contained BrdU-positive cells. By day 10 post restimulation, when vascular area and length density were again increased, and the number of vascular islands was dramatically reduced.
Conclusion: The results suggest that vascular islands originating during microvascular regression are capable of undergoing proliferation and incorporation into nearby networks during network regrowth.
PMCID: PMC3655287  PMID: 23720632
angiogenesis; microcirculation; mesentery; proliferation; endothelial cell; disconnected segment; vascular island
2.  Relationships Between Lymphangiogenesis and Angiogenesis During Inflammation in Rat Mesentery Microvascular Networks 
Lymphatic Research and Biology  2012;10(4):198-207.
Lymphatic and blood microvascular systems play a coordinated role in the regulation of interstitial fluid balance and immune cell trafficking during inflammation. The objective of this study was to characterize the temporal and spatial relationships between lymphatic and blood vessel growth in the adult rat mesentery following an inflammatory stimulus.
Methods and Results
Mesenteric tissues were harvested from unstimulated adult male Wistar rats and at 3, 10, and 30 days post compound 48/80 stimulation. Tissues were immunolabeled for PECAM, LYVE-1, Prox1, podoplanin, CD11b, and class III β-tubulin. Vascular area, capillary blind end density, and vascular length density were quantified for each vessel system per time point. Blood vascular area increased compared to unstimulated tissues by day 10 and remained increased at day 30. Following the peak in blood capillary sprouting at day 3, blood vascular area and density increased at day 10. The number of blind-ended lymphatic vessels and lymphatic density did not significantly increase until day 10, and lymphatic vascular area was not increased compared to the unstimulated level until day 30. Lymphangiogenesis correlated with the upregulation of class III β-tubulin expression by endothelial cells along lymphatic blind-ended vessels and increased lymphatic/blood endothelial cell connections. In local tissue regions containing both blood and lymphatic vessels, the presence of lymphatics attenuated blood capillary sprouting.
Our work suggests that lymphangiogenesis lags angiogenesis during inflammation and motivates the need for future investigations aimed at understanding lymphatic/blood endothelial cell interactions. The results also indicate that lymphatic endothelial cells undergo phenotypic changes during lymphangiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3525890  PMID: 23240958
3.  Lymphatic/Blood Endothelial Cell Connections at the Capillary Level in Adult Rat Mesentery 
Analyses of microvascular networks with traditional tracer filling techniques suggest that the blood and lymphatic systems are distinct without direct communications, yet involvement of common growth factors during angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis suggest that interactions at the capillary level are possible. In order to investigate the structural basis for lymphatic/blood endothelial cell connections during normal physiological growth, the objective of this study was to characterize the spatial relations between lymphatic and blood capillaries in adult rat mesenteric tissue. Using immunohistochemical methods, adult male Wistar rat mesenteric tissues were labeled with antibodies against PECAM (an endothelial marker) and LYVE-1, Prox-1, or Podoplanin (lymphatic endothelial markers) or NG2 (a pericyte marker). Positive PECAM labeling identified apparent lymphatic/blood endothelial cell connections at the capillary level characterized by direct contact or direct alignment with one another. In PECAM labeled networks, a subset of the lymphatic and blood capillary blind ends were connected with each other. Intravital imaging of FITC-Albumin injected through the femoral vein did not identify lymphatic vessels. At contact sites, lymphatic endothelial markers did not extend along blood capillary segments. However, PECAM positive lymphatic sprouts, structurally similar to blood capillary sprouts, lacked observable lymphatic marker labeling. These observations suggest that non-lumenal lymphatic/blood endothelial cell interactions exist in unstimulated adult microvascular networks and highlight the potential for lymphatic/blood endothelial cell plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3000855  PMID: 20648570
Microcirculation; Angiogenesis; Lymphangiogenesis; Endothelial Cell
Elevated blood pressure during hypertension has been associated with microvascular rarefaction defined by loss of microvessels. However, whether rarefaction is a result of impaired angiogenesis remains unclear. The objective of this study was to compare angiogenesis across the time course of mesenteric microvascular network remodeling in adult spontaneously hypertensive versus normotensive rats. Angiogenic responses in 15–16-week-old SHR and Wistar rats at 0, 3, 5, 10 or 25 days post 20 minute exteriorization of the mesentery were quantified. Consistent with the phenomenon of rarefaction, vascularized area in unstimulated SHR was decreased compared to Wistar. By 25 days, SHR vascular area had increased to the Wistar level and vascular length density and capillary sprouting were comparable. At 3 and 5 days, SHR and Wistar tissues displayed an increase in the capillary sprouting and vascular density relative to their unstimulated controls. At 10 days, capillary sprouting in the SHR remained elevated. The percent change in vascular density was elevated in the SHR compared to the Wistar group at 3 and 5 days and by 25 days the rate of change was more negative. Our results suggest that SHR networks undergo an increased rate of growth followed by an increased rate of pruning.
PMCID: PMC3176994  PMID: 21627712
Hypertension; Angiogenesis; Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat; Microcirculation; Mesentery
5.  Attenuation of EphrinB2 Reverse Signaling Decreases Vascularized Area and Preretinal Vascular Tuft Formation in the Murine Model of Oxygen-Induced Retinopathy 
EphB4 and ephrinB2 are known key regulators of retinal vascular development, but due to their capacity for bidirectional signaling, delineation of their individual roles in this process remains unclear. To better dissect out individual contributions, a model of proliferative retinopathy in mice with attenuated ephrinB2 reverse signaling was studied. It was hypothesized that endothelial ephrinB2 reverse signaling regulates hypoxia-induced capillary sprouting, as well as the pathologic formation of neovascular tufts in postnatal retinal microvascular networks.
Genetically manipulated mice with attenuated ephrinB2 reverse signaling (ephrinB2lacZ/+), along with wild-type (WT) controls, were exposed to oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR), a postnatal model of proliferative retinopathy. At peak disease (postnatal day 18), microvascular networks were analyzed to examine intraretinal revascularization, capillary sprouting, and pathologic neovascularization responses. EphB4 and phosphorylated ephrinB protein expression patterns along retinal microvessels were also assessed.
EphrinB2lacZ/+ mice exhibited reduced hypoxia-induced revascularization (P ≤ 0.04) and reduced formation of neovascular tufts (P < 0.001), as compared with WT controls. Corresponding to the observed inhibition of retinal angiogenesis, ephrinB2lacZ/+ retinas displayed an increased number of blind-ended capillary sprout tips (P < 0.02) and endothelial filopodial processes (P = 0.001). In WT and ephrinB2lacZ/+ OIR-exposed retinas, ephrinB was confined to endothelial cells, with expression detected along angiogenic vascular processes including neovascular tufts and blind-ended capillary sprouts.
EphrinB2 reverse signaling is a regulator of key processes during retinal vascularization and controls pathologic retinal angiogenesis through direct effects on capillary sprouting and endothelial filopodia formation.
We have uncovered a novel role for ephrinB2 reverse signaling in modulating pathologic (hyperoxia induced) retinal angiogenesis using genetically manipulated mice with attenuated ephrinB2 reverse signaling.
PMCID: PMC3948501  PMID: 22789927
6.  VEGF-C induced angiogenesis preferentially occurs at a distance from lymphangiogenesis 
Cardiovascular research  2007;78(2):315-323.
Vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) has been shown to stimulate both angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis in some but not all models where VEGF-C is over-expressed. Our aim was to investigate the interaction between lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis in adult tissues regulated by VEGF-C and identify evidence of polarized growth of lymphatics driven by specialized cells at the tip of the growing sprout.
Methods and results
We used an adult model of lymphangiogenesis in the rat mesentery. The angiogenic effect of VEGF-C was markedly attenuated in the presence of a growing lymphatic network. Furthermore, we show that this growth of lymphatic vessels can occur both by recruitment of isolated lymphatic islands to a connected network and by filopodial sprouting. The latter is independent of polarized tip cell differentiation that can be generated all along lymphatic capillaries, independently of the proliferation status of the lymphatic endothelial cells.
These results both demonstrate a dependence of VEGF-C-mediated angiogenesis on lymphatic vascular networks and indicate that the mechanism of VEGF-C-mediated lymphangiogenesis is different from that of classical angiogenic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2613351  PMID: 18065770
Angiogenesis; Lymphangiogenesis; VEGF-C; Sprouting
7.  Structure of Microvascular Networks in Genetic Hypertension 
Methods in Enzymology  2008;444:271-284.
Microvascular rarefaction, defined by a loss of terminal arterioles, small venules and/or capillaries, is a common characteristic of the hypertension syndrome. While rarefaction has been associated with vessel specific free radical production, deficient leukocyte adhesion, and cellular apoptosis, the relationships of rarefaction with structural alterations at the network and cellular level remain largely unexplored. The objective of this study was to examine the architecture and perivascular cell phenotypes along microvascular networks in hypertensive versus normotensive controls in the context of imbalanced angiogenesis. Mesenteric tissues from age-matched adult male spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats were harvested and immnolabeled for PECAM and neuron-glia antigen 2 (NG2). Evaluation of intact rat mesenteric microvascular networks rats suggests that network alterations associated with hypertension are more complex than just a loss of vessels. Typical SHR versus WKY networks demonstrate a reduced branching architecture marked by more proximal arteriole/venous anastomoses and an absence of NG2 labeling along arterioles. Although less frequent, larger SHR microvascular networks display regions of dramatically increased vascular density. SHR and WKY lymphatic networks demonstrate increased vessel diameters and vascular density compared to networks in normotensive Wistar rats (the strain from which both the SHR and WKY originated). These observations provide a rationale for investigating the presence of local angiogenic factors and response of microvascular networks to therapies aimed at reversing rarefaction in genetic hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3325543  PMID: 19007669
8.  Rat Mesentery Exteriorization: A Model for Investigating the Cellular Dynamics Involved in Angiogenesis 
Microvacular network growth and remodeling are critical aspects of wound healing, inflammation, diabetic retinopathy, tumor growth and other disease conditions1, 2. Network growth is commonly attributed to angiogenesis, defined as the growth of new vessels from pre-existing vessels. The angiogenic process is also directly linked to arteriogenesis, defined as the capillary acquisition of a perivascular cell coating and vessel enlargement. Needless to say, angiogenesis is complex and involves multiple players at the cellular and molecular level3. Understanding how a microvascular network grows requires identifying the spatial and temporal dynamics along the hierarchy of a network over the time course of angiogenesis. This information is critical for the development of therapies aimed at manipulating vessel growth.
The exteriorization model described in this article represents a simple, reproducible model for stimulating angiogenesis in the rat mesentery. It was adapted from wound-healing models in the rat mesentery4-7, and is an alternative to stimulate angiogenesis in the mesentery via i.p. injections of pro-angiogenic agents8, 9. The exteriorization model is attractive because it requires minimal surgical intervention and produces dramatic, reproducible increases in capillary sprouts, vascular area and vascular density over a relatively short time course in a tissue that allows for the two-dimensional visualization of entire microvascular networks down to single cell level. The stimulated growth reflects natural angiogenic responses in a physiological environment without interference of foreign angiogenic molecules. Using immunohistochemical labeling methods, this model has been proven extremely useful in identifying novel cellular events involved in angiogenesis. Investigators can readily correlate the angiogenic metrics during the time course of remodeling with time specific dynamics, such as cellular phenotypic changes or cellular interactions4, 5, 7, 10, 11.
PMCID: PMC3466932  PMID: 22643964
Cellular Biology;  Issue 63;  mesentery;  rat;  angiogenesis;  microcirculation;  microvascular;  remodeling
9.  RAIN-Droplet: A Novel 3-D in vitro Angiogenesis Model 
Angiogenesis is fundamentally required for the initialization, development and metastatic spread of cancer. A rapidly expanding number of new experimental, chemical modulators of endothelial cell function have been described for the therapeutic inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer. Despite this expansion there has been very limited parallel growth of in vitro angiogenesis models or experimental tools. Here we present the Responsive Angiogenic Implanted Network (RAIN)-Droplet model and novel angiogenesis assay using an endothelial cell culture model of microvascular endothelial cells encapsulated in a spontaneously self-assembling, toroidal hydrogel droplet uniquely yielding discrete, pre-formed, angiogenic networks that may be embedded in 3-D matrices. On embedding, radial growth of capillary-like sprouts and cell invasion was observed. The sprouts formed as both outgrowths from endothelial cells on the surface of the droplets but also, uniquely, from the pre-formed network structures within the droplet. We demonstrate proof-of-principle for the utility of the model showing significant inhibition of sprout formation (p<0.001) in the presence of bevacizumab, an anti-angiogenic antibody. Using the RAIN-Droplet assay we also demonstrate a novel dose dependent pro-angiogenic function for the characteristically anti-angiogenic multi-kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Exposure of endothelial cells in 3-D culture to low, non-lethal doses (<1 μM) of sorafenib after initiation of sprouting resulted in the formation of significantly (p<0.05) more endothelial sprouts compared to controls over a 48-hour period. Higher doses of sorafenib (5 μM) resulted in a significant (p<0.05) reduction of sprouting over the same time period. The RAIN-Droplet model is a highly versatile and simply constructed 3-D focal sprouting approach well suited for the study of vascular morphogenesis and for preclinical testing of drugs. Furthermore, the RAIN-Droplet model has facilitated the discovery of a novel pro-angiogenic capacity for sorafenib which may impact the clinical application and dosing regimen of that drug.
PMCID: PMC4043634  PMID: 22565576
Endothelial; microvascular; puramatrix; 3-D cell-culture; drug screen; capillary formation assay; sorafenib; bevacizumab
Neuroscience  2012;227:223-231.
Human umbilical cord blood cells (HUCBCs) have been employed as a restorative treatment for experimental stroke. In this study, we investigated whether transplantation of sub-therapeutic doses of HUCBCs and Simvastatin enhances cerebral vascular remodeling after stroke. Adult male Wistar rats (n=34) were subjected to transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) and treated with: phosphate buffered solution (PBS, gavaged daily for 7 days); Simvastatin (0.5mg/kg, gavaged daily for 7 days); HUCBCs (1x106, injected once via tail vein); and combination Simvasatin with HUCBCs, starting at 24 h after MCAo. There was no significant difference between Simvastatin- or HUCBC-monotherapy and MCAo-alone group. Combination treatment 24 h post-stroke significantly increased the perimeter of von Willebrand factor (vWF)-positive vessels, the diameter and density of alpha smooth muscle actin ( SMA)-positive arteries, and the percentage of BrdU-positive endothelial cells (ECs) in the ischemic boundary zone (IBZ) compared with MCAo-alone or HUCBC-monotherapy 14 days after MCAo (p<0.05, n=8/group); Combination treatment significantly increased the densities of vWF-vessels and SMA-arteries as well as the densities of BrdU-ECs and BrdU-positive smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in vascular walls in the IBZ compared with Simvastatin-monotherapy. Moreover, the increased BrdU-ECs and BrdU-SMCs were significantly correlated with neurological functional outcome 14 days after MCAo. Combination treatment also significantly increased the expression of Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1), Tie2 and Occludin in the IBZ (p<0.05, n=8/group). The in vitro experiments showed that combination treatment and Ang1 significantly increased capillary-like tube formation and arterial cell migration; anti-Ang1 significantly reduced combination treatment induced tube-formation and artery cell migration (p<0.05, n=6/group). These findings indicated that combination of sub-therapeutic doses of Simvastatin and HUCBCs treatment of stroke increases Ang1/Tie2 and Occludin expression in the ischemic brain, amplifies endogenous angiogenesis and arteriogenesis, and enhances vascular remodeling which in concert may contribute to functional outcome after stroke.
PMCID: PMC3505259  PMID: 23041512
Simvastatin; human umbilical cord blood cells (HUCBCs); vascular remodeling; stroke; Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1)
11.  Elongation, proliferation & migration differentiate endothelial cell phenotypes and determine capillary sprouting 
BMC Systems Biology  2009;3:13.
Angiogenesis, the growth of capillaries from preexisting blood vessels, has been extensively studied experimentally over the past thirty years. Molecular insights from these studies have lead to therapies for cancer, macular degeneration and ischemia. In parallel, mathematical models of angiogenesis have helped characterize a broader view of capillary network formation and have suggested new directions for experimental pursuit. We developed a computational model that bridges the gap between these two perspectives, and addresses a remaining question in angiogenic sprouting: how do the processes of endothelial cell elongation, migration and proliferation contribute to vessel formation?
We present a multiscale systems model that closely simulates the mechanisms underlying sprouting at the onset of angiogenesis. Designed by agent-based programming, the model uses logical rules to guide the behavior of individual endothelial cells and segments of cells. The activation, proliferation, and movement of these cells lead to capillary growth in three dimensions. By this means, a novel capillary network emerges out of combinatorially complex interactions of single cells. Rules and parameter ranges are based on literature data on endothelial cell behavior in vitro. The model is designed generally, and will subsequently be applied to represent species-specific, tissue-specific in vitro and in vivo conditions.
Initial results predict tip cell activation, stalk cell development and sprout formation as a function of local vascular endothelial growth factor concentrations and the Delta-like 4 Notch ligand, as it might occur in a three-dimensional in vitro setting. Results demonstrate the differential effects of ligand concentrations, cell movement and proliferation on sprouting and directional persistence.
This systems biology model offers a paradigm closely related to biological phenomena and highlights previously unexplored interactions of cell elongation, migration and proliferation as a function of ligand concentration, giving insight into key cellular mechanisms driving angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2672076  PMID: 19171061
12.  Human mast cells stimulate vascular tube formation. Tryptase is a novel, potent angiogenic factor. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1997;99(11):2691-2700.
The presence of mast cells near capillary sprouting sites suggests an association between mast cells and angiogenesis. However, the role of mast cells in blood vessel development remains to be defined. In an attempt to elucidate this relationship, we investigated the effect of human mast cells (HMC-1) and their products on human dermal microvascular endothelial cell (HDMEC) tube formation. Coculture of HMC-1 with HDMEC led to a dose-response increase in the network area of vascular tube growth. Moreover, the extent of neovascularization was enhanced greatly when HMC-1 were degranulated in the presence of HDMEC. Further examination using antagonists to various mast cell products revealed a blunted response (73-88% decrease) in the area of vascular tube formation if specific inhibitors of tryptase were present. Tryptase (3 microg/ml) directly added to HDMEC caused a significant augmentation of capillary growth, which was suppressed by specific tryptase inhibitors. Tryptase also directly induced cell proliferation of HDMEC in a dose-dependent fashion (2 pM-2 nM). Our results suggest that mast cells act at sites of new vessel formation by secreting tryptase, which then functions as a potent and previously unrecognized angiogenic factor.
PMCID: PMC508115  PMID: 9169499
13.  In Vitro Angiogenesis Induced by Tumor-Endothelial Cell Co-Culture in Bilayered, Collagen I Hydrogel Bioengineered Tumors 
Tissue Engineering. Part C, Methods  2013;19(11):864-874.
Although successful remission has been achieved when cancer is diagnosed and treated during its earliest stages of development, a tumor that has established neovascularization poses a significantly greater risk of mortality. The inability to recapitulate the complexities of a maturing in vivo tumor microenvironment in an in vitro setting has frustrated attempts to identify and test anti-angiogenesis therapies that are effective at permanently halting cancer progression. We have established an in vitro tumor angiogenesis model driven solely by paracrine signaling between MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and telomerase-immortalized human microvascular endothelial (TIME) cells co-cultured in a spatially relevant manner. The bilayered bioengineered tumor model consists of TIME cells cultured as an endothelium on the surface of an acellular collagen I hydrogel under which MDA-MB-231 cells are cultured in a separate collagen I hydrogel. Results showed that TIME cells co-cultured with the MDA-MB-231 cells demonstrated a significant increase in cell number, rapidly developed an elongated morphology, and invasively sprouted into the underlying acellular collagen I layer. Comparatively, bioengineered tumors cultured with less aggressive MCF7 breast cancer cells did not elicit an angiogenic response. Angiogenic sprouting was demonstrated by the formation of a complex capillary-like tubule network beneath the surface of a confluent endothelial monolayer with lumen formation and anastomosing branches. In vitro angiogenesis was dependent on vascular endothelial growth factor secretion, matrix concentration, and duration of co-culture. Basic fibroblast growth factor supplemented to the co-cultures augmented angiogenic sprouting. The development of improved preclinical tumor angiogenesis models, such as the one presented here, is critical for accurate evaluation and refinement of anti-angiogenesis therapies.
PMCID: PMC3793662  PMID: 23516987
14.  Perturbed neural activity disrupts cerebral angiogenesis during a postnatal critical period 
Nature  2013;505(7483):407-411.
During the neonatal period, activity-dependent neural circuit remodeling coincides with growth and refinement of the cerebral microvasculature1,2. Whether neural activity also influences the patterning of the vascular bed is not known. Here we show in neonatal mice, that neither reduction of sensory input through whisker trimming nor moderately increased activity by environmental enrichment affected cortical microvascular development. Surprisingly however, chronic stimulation by repetitive sounds, whisker deflection, or motor activity led to a near arrest of angiogenesis in barrel, auditory, and motor cortices, respectively. Chemically-induced seizures also caused robust reductions in microvascular density. Altering neural activity in adult mice, however, did not affect the vasculature. Histological analysis and time-lapse in vivo two-photon microscopy revealed that hyperactivity did not lead to cell death or pruning of existing vessels but rather reduced endothelial proliferation and vessel sprouting. This anti-angiogenic effect was prevented by administration of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor L-NAME and in mice with neuronal and inducible NOS deficiency, suggesting that excessive nitric oxide released from hyperactive interneurons and glia inhibited vessel growth. Vascular deficits persisted long after cessation of hyperstimulation, providing evidence for a critical period after which proper microvascular patterning cannot be re-established. Reduced microvascular density diminished the ability of the brain to compensate for hypoxic challenges, leading to dendritic spine loss in regions distant from capillaries. Therefore, excessive sensorimotor stimulation and repetitive neural activation during early childhood may cause lifelong deficits in microvascular reserve, which could have important consequences on brain development, function, and pathology.
PMCID: PMC3947100  PMID: 24305053
15.  The effect of microvascular pattern alterations on network resistance in spontaneously hypertensive rats 
Structural microvascular rarefaction, defined by a loss of vessels, is a common characteristic of hypertension and has been associated with elevated microvascular resistance. However, determining the causal relationship between microvascular network structure and resistance requires a consideration of all pattern changes throughout a network. The objectives of this study were to determine whether microvascular rarefaction is associated with other network pattern alterations and to evaluate whether pattern alterations in hypertension necessarily contribute to increased microvascular resistance. Mesenteric tissues from age-matched (15–16 weeks) male spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats were harvested and immunolabeled for PECAM. SHR networks displayed a decreased microvascular area, arteriolar-venular (AV) length, number of AV branches, and number of capillary segments. In addition, SHR networks displayed increased AV connections per network compared to WKY networks. Based on network geometries, resistance per network was calculated using a computational model. For simulations with equal vessel diameter and with relative diameters based on reported intravital measurements, SHR microvascular network resistance was not elevated compared to the WKY level. Our results suggest that microvascular pattern alterations associated with hypertension are more complex than vessel loss, and that these combined alterations do not necessarily lead to elevated resistance.
PMCID: PMC3608097  PMID: 22562369
Microcirculation; Rarefaction; Hypertension; Mesentery; Resistance; SHR
16.  Endocardial Tip Cells in the Human Embryo – Facts and Hypotheses 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0115853.
Experimental studies regarding coronary embryogenesis suggest that the endocardium is a source of endothelial cells for the myocardial networks. As this was not previously documented in human embryos, we aimed to study whether or not endothelial tip cells could be correlated with endocardial-dependent mechanisms of sprouting angiogenesis. Six human embryos (43–56 days) were obtained and processed in accordance with ethical regulations; immunohistochemistry was performed for CD105 (endoglin), CD31, CD34, α-smooth muscle actin, desmin and vimentin antibodies. Primitive main vessels were found deriving from both the sinus venosus and aorta, and were sought to be the primordia of the venous and arterial ends of cardiac microcirculation. Subepicardial vessels were found branching into the outer ventricular myocardium, with a pattern of recruiting α-SMA+/desmin+ vascular smooth muscle cells and pericytes. Endothelial sprouts were guided by CD31+/CD34+/CD105+/vimentin+ endothelial tip cells. Within the inner myocardium, we found endothelial networks rooted from endocardium, guided by filopodia-projecting CD31+/CD34+/CD105+/ vimentin+ endocardial tip cells. The myocardial microcirculatory bed in the atria was mostly originated from endocardium, as well. Nevertheless, endocardial tip cells were also found in cardiac cushions, but they were not related to cushion endothelial networks. A general anatomical pattern of cardiac microvascular embryogenesis was thus hypothesized; the arterial and venous ends being linked, respectively, to the aorta and sinus venosus. Further elongation of the vessels may be related to the epicardium and subepicardial stroma and the intramyocardial network, depending on either endothelial and endocardial filopodia-guided tip cells in ventricles, or mostly on endocardium, in atria.
PMCID: PMC4305311  PMID: 25617624
17.  Maturation of the gastric microvasculature in Xenopus laevis (Lissamphibia, Anura) occurs at the transition from the herbivorous to the carnivorous lifestyle, predominantly by intussuceptive microvascular growth (IMG): a scanning electron microscope study of microvascular corrosion casts and correlative light microscopy 
Anatomical Science International  2012;87(2):88-100.
The microvascular bed of the stomach of Xenopus laevis and the changes it undergoes when the herbivorous tadpole becomes a carnivorous adult were studied by scanning electron microscopy of vascular corrosion casts and light microscopy of stained tissue sections. In tadpoles an upper and a lower gastric artery supplied, and upper, middle and lower medial and lateral gastric veins drained the vertically extending stomach. During metamorphosis, the stomach gained a horizontal cranio-caudal extension and vessels accordingly become dorsal and ventral gastric arteries, and anterior, middle and posterior gastric veins, respectively. Up to stage 64 (late climax) mucosal capillaries formed a polygonal network of wide immature-looking capillaries ensheathing gastric glands in a basket-like manner. From stage 64 onwards, blood vessels of the stomach appeared mature, revealed a clear hierarchy and were correlated closely with the histomorphology of the stomach, which had also gained the adult pattern. Within the gastric mucosa, ascending arterioles branched in a fountain-like pattern into wide subepithelial capillaries establishing a centripetal blood flow along the gastric glands, which makes an ultrashort control loop of glandular cells within the branched tubular gastric glands very unlikely. Formation of the stomach external muscular layer started at stage 57 when smooth muscle cells locally formed a single longitudinal and one-to-two single circular layers. Abundant signs of intussusceptive microvascular growth and rare vascular sprouts in vascular corrosion casts indicated that the larval-to-adult microvascular pattern formation of the stomach of Xenopus laevis Daudin occurs predominantly by non-sprouting angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3360849  PMID: 22237922
Xenopus; Stomach; Microvasculature; Non-sprouting angiogenesis; Vascular casting; Scanning electron microscopy
18.  Endothelial NADPH oxidase 4 mediates vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2–induced intravitreal neovascularization in a rat model of retinopathy of prematurity 
Molecular Vision  2014;20:231-241.
NADPH oxidase–generated reactive oxygen species (ROS) are implicated in angiogenesis. Isoforms of NADPH oxidase NOX1, NOX2, and NOX4 are reported to be expressed in endothelial cells (ECs). Of these, NOX1 and NOX2 have been reported to contribute to intravitreal neovascularization (IVNV) in oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) models. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the isoform NOX4 in ECs contributed to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)–induced angiogenesis and IVNV.
Isoforms of NADPH oxidase mRNA were measured in several types of cultured vascular ECs: human retinal microvascular ECs (hRMVECs), choroidal ECs (CECs), and human umbilical vascular ECs (HUVECs) using real-time PCR. Newborn rat pups and dams were placed into an OIR model that cycled oxygen concentration between 50% and 10% every 24 h for 14 days, and then were placed in room air (RA) for an additional 4 days (rat OIR model). NOX4 expression in retinal lysates from the RA–raised pups at postnatal day 0 (P0), P14, and P18 was determined with western blots. STAT3 activation was determined as the ratio of phosphorylated STAT3 to total STAT3 with western blot analysis of retinal lysates from pups raised in RA or from the rat OIR model at P18. Semiquantitative assessment of the density of NOX4 colabeling with lectin-stained retinal ECs was determined by immunolabeling of retinal cryosections from P18 pups in OIR or in RA. In hRMVECs transfected with NOX4 siRNA and treated with VEGF or control, 1) ROS generation was measured using the 5-(and-6)-chloromethyl-2',7'-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate, acetyl ester fluorescence assay and 2) phosphorylated VEGF receptor 2 and STAT3, and total VEGFR2 and STAT3 were measured in western blot analyses. VEGF-stimulated hRMVEC proliferation was measured following transfection with NOX4 siRNA or STAT3 siRNA, or respective controls.
NOX4 was the most prevalent isoform of NADPH oxidase in vascular ECs. NOX4 expression in retinal lysates was significantly decreased during development in RA. Compared to RA, the expression of retinal NOX4 increased at P18. At p18 OIR, semiquantitative assessment of the density of lectin and NOX4 colabeling in retinal vascular ECs was greater in retinal cryosections and activated STAT3 was greater in retinal lysates when compared to the RA-raised pups. In cultured hRMVECs, knockdown of NOX4 by siRNA transfection inhibited VEGF-induced ROS generation. VEGF induced a physical interaction of phosphorylated-VEGFR2 and NOX4. Knockdown of NOX4: 1) reduced VEGFR2 activation but did not abolish it and 2) abolished STAT3 activation in response to VEGF. Knockdown of either NOX4 or STAT3 inhibited VEGF-induced EC proliferation.
Our data suggest that in a model representative of human retinopathy of prematurity, NOX4 was increased at a time point when IVNV developed. VEGF-activated NOX4 led to an interaction between VEGF-activated VEGFR2 and NOX4 that mediated EC proliferation via activation of STAT3. Altogether, our results suggest that NOX4 may regulate VEGFR2-mediated IVNV through activated STAT3.
PMCID: PMC3945806  PMID: 24623966
19.  Choroid Sprouting Assay: An Ex Vivo Model of Microvascular Angiogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69552.
Angiogenesis of the microvasculature is central to the etiology of many diseases including proliferative retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and cancer. A mouse model of microvascular angiogenesis would be very valuable and enable access to a wide range of genetically manipulated tissues that closely approximate small blood vessel growth in vivo. Vascular endothelial cells cultured in vitro are widely used, however, isolating pure vascular murine endothelial cells is technically challenging. A microvascular mouse explant model that is robust, quantitative and can be reproduced without difficulty would overcome these limitations. Here we characterized and optimized for reproducibility an organotypic microvascular angiogenesis mouse and rat model from the choroid, a microvascular bed in the posterior of eye. The choroidal tissues from C57BL/6J and 129S6/SvEvTac mice and Sprague Dawley rats were isolated and incubated in Matrigel. Vascular sprouting was comparable between choroid samples obtained from different animals of the same genetic background. The sprouting area, normalized to controls, was highly reproducible between independent experiments. We developed a semi-automated macro in ImageJ software to allow for more efficient quantification of sprouting area. Isolated choroid explants responded to manipulation of the external environment while maintaining the local interactions of endothelial cells with neighboring cells, including pericytes and macrophages as evidenced by immunohistochemistry and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis. This reproducible ex vivo angiogenesis assay can be used to evaluate angiogenic potential of pharmacologic compounds on microvessels and can take advantage of genetically manipulated mouse tissue for microvascular disease research.
PMCID: PMC3724908  PMID: 23922736
20.  Contact-Inhibited Chemotaxis in De Novo and Sprouting Blood-Vessel Growth 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(9):e1000163.
Blood vessels form either when dispersed endothelial cells (the cells lining the inner walls of fully formed blood vessels) organize into a vessel network (vasculogenesis), or by sprouting or splitting of existing blood vessels (angiogenesis). Although they are closely related biologically, no current model explains both phenomena with a single biophysical mechanism. Most computational models describe sprouting at the level of the blood vessel, ignoring how cell behavior drives branch splitting during sprouting. We present a cell-based, Glazier–Graner–Hogeweg model (also called Cellular Potts Model) simulation of the initial patterning before the vascular cords form lumens, based on plausible behaviors of endothelial cells. The endothelial cells secrete a chemoattractant, which attracts other endothelial cells. As in the classic Keller–Segel model, chemotaxis by itself causes cells to aggregate into isolated clusters. However, including experimentally observed VE-cadherin–mediated contact inhibition of chemotaxis in the simulation causes randomly distributed cells to organize into networks and cell aggregates to sprout, reproducing aspects of both de novo and sprouting blood-vessel growth. We discuss two branching instabilities responsible for our results. Cells at the surfaces of cell clusters attempting to migrate to the centers of the clusters produce a buckling instability. In a model variant that eliminates the surface–normal force, a dissipative mechanism drives sprouting, with the secreted chemical acting both as a chemoattractant and as an inhibitor of pseudopod extension. Both mechanisms would also apply if force transmission through the extracellular matrix rather than chemical signaling mediated cell–cell interactions. The branching instabilities responsible for our results, which result from contact inhibition of chemotaxis, are both generic developmental mechanisms and interesting examples of unusual patterning instabilities.
Author Summary
A better understanding of the mechanisms by which endothelial cells (the cells lining the inner walls of blood vessels) organize into blood vessels is crucial if we need to enhance or suppress blood vessel growth under pathological conditions, including diabetes, wound healing, and tumor growth. During embryonic development, endothelial cells initially self-organize into a network of solid cords via blood vessel growth. The vascular network expands by splitting of existing blood vessels and by sprouting. Using computer simulations, we have captured a small set of biologically plausible cell behaviors that can reproduce the initial self-organization of endothelial cells, the sprouting of existing vessels, and the immediately subsequent remodeling of the resulting networks. In this model, endothelial cells both secrete diffusible chemoattractants and move up gradients of those chemicals by extending and retracting small pseudopods. By itself, this behavior causes simulated cells to accumulate to aggregate into large, round clusters. We propose that endothelial cells stop extending pseudopods along a given section of cell membrane as soon as the membrane touches the membrane of another endothelial cell (contact inhibition). Adding such contact-inhibition to our simulations allows vascular cords to form sprouts under a wide range of conditions.
PMCID: PMC2528254  PMID: 18802455
21.  Mechanical Cell-Matrix Feedback Explains Pairwise and Collective Endothelial Cell Behavior In Vitro 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(8):e1003774.
In vitro cultures of endothelial cells are a widely used model system of the collective behavior of endothelial cells during vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. When seeded in an extracellular matrix, endothelial cells can form blood vessel-like structures, including vascular networks and sprouts. Endothelial morphogenesis depends on a large number of chemical and mechanical factors, including the compliancy of the extracellular matrix, the available growth factors, the adhesion of cells to the extracellular matrix, cell-cell signaling, etc. Although various computational models have been proposed to explain the role of each of these biochemical and biomechanical effects, the understanding of the mechanisms underlying in vitro angiogenesis is still incomplete. Most explanations focus on predicting the whole vascular network or sprout from the underlying cell behavior, and do not check if the same model also correctly captures the intermediate scale: the pairwise cell-cell interactions or single cell responses to ECM mechanics. Here we show, using a hybrid cellular Potts and finite element computational model, that a single set of biologically plausible rules describing (a) the contractile forces that endothelial cells exert on the ECM, (b) the resulting strains in the extracellular matrix, and (c) the cellular response to the strains, suffices for reproducing the behavior of individual endothelial cells and the interactions of endothelial cell pairs in compliant matrices. With the same set of rules, the model also reproduces network formation from scattered cells, and sprouting from endothelial spheroids. Combining the present mechanical model with aspects of previously proposed mechanical and chemical models may lead to a more complete understanding of in vitro angiogenesis.
Author Summary
During the embryonic development of multicellular organisms, millions of cells cooperatively build structured tissues, organs and whole organisms, a process called morphogenesis. How the behavior of so many cells is coordinated to produce complex structures is still incompletely understood. Most biomedical research focuses on the molecular signals that cells exchange with one another. It has now become clear that cells also communicate biomechanically during morphogenesis. In cell cultures, endothelial cells—the building blocks of blood vessels—can organize into structures resembling networks of capillaries. Experimental work has shown that the endothelial cells pull onto the protein gel that they live in, called the extracellular matrix. On sufficiently compliant matrices, the strains resulting from these cellular pulling forces slow down and reorient adjacent cells. Here we propose a new computational model to show that this simple form of mechanical cell-cell communication suffices for reproducing the formation of blood vessel-like structures in cell cultures. These findings advance our understanding of biomechanical signaling during morphogenesis, and introduce a new set of computational tools for modeling mechanical interactions between cells and the extracellular matrix.
PMCID: PMC4133044  PMID: 25121971
22.  Docosahexaenoic Acid Improves the Nitroso-Redox Balance and Reduces VEGF-Mediated Angiogenic Signaling in Microvascular Endothelial Cells 
The poorly understood mechanism by which ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) reduce the severity of ocular vasoproliferative disorders was investigated. The authors demonstrate that ω-3 PUFAs, in particular docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can improve the nitroso-redox balance by modulating the production of nitric oxide and superoxide. In addition, they provide evidence that ω-3 PUFAs also blunt growth factor signaling and displace eNOS from caveolae microdomains. Results suggests a dual benefit of ω-3 PUFAs in the treatment of ocular diseases by maintaining the prosurvival effects of NO in the early degenerative phase of ischemic retinopathies and reducing the severity of VEGF-mediated signaling in the late proliferative phase.
Disturbances to the cellular production of nitric oxide (NO) and superoxide (O2−) can have deleterious effects on retinal vascular integrity and angiogenic signaling. Dietary agents that could modulate the production of these signaling molecules from their likely enzymatic sources, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and NADPH oxidase, would therefore have a major beneficial effect on retinal vascular disease. The effect of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on angiogenic signaling and NO/superoxide production in retinal microvascular endothelial cells (RMECs) was investigated.
Primary RMECs were treated with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) for 48 hours. RMEC migration was determined by scratch-wound assay, proliferation by the incorporation of BrdU, and angiogenic sprouting using a three-dimensional model of in vitro angiogenesis. NO production was quantified by Griess assay, and phospho-eNOS accumulation and superoxide were measured using the fluorescent probe dihydroethidine. eNOS localization to caveolin-rich microdomains was determined by Western blot analysis after subfractionation on a linear sucrose gradient.
DHA treatment increased nitrite and decreased superoxide production, which correlated with the displacement of eNOS from caveolar subdomains and colocalization with the negative regulator caveolin-1. In addition, both ω-3 PUFAs demonstrated reduced responsiveness to VEGF-stimulated superoxide and nitrite release and significantly impaired endothelial wound healing, proliferation, and angiogenic sprout formation.
DHA improves NO bioavailability, decreases O2− production, and blunts VEGF-mediated angiogenic signaling. These findings suggest a role for ω-3 PUFAs, particularly DHA, in maintaining vascular integrity while reducing pathologic retinal neovascularization.
PMCID: PMC3055780  PMID: 20702831
23.  The Secretome of Endothelial Progenitor Cells Promotes Brain Endothelial Cell Activity through PI3-Kinase and MAP-Kinase 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95731.
Angiogenesis and vascular remodelling are crucial events in tissue repair mechanisms promoted by cell transplantation. Current evidence underscores the importance of the soluble factors secreted by stem cells in tissue regeneration. In the present study we investigated the effects of paracrine factors derived from cultured endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) on rat brain endothelial cell properties and addressed the signaling pathways involved.
Endothelial cells derived from rat brain (rBCEC4) were incubated with EPC-derived conditioned medium (EPC-CM). The angiogenic response of rBCEC4 to EPC-CM was assessed as effect on cell number, migration and tubular network formation. In addition, we have compared the outcome of the in vitro experiments with the effects on capillary sprouting from rat aortic rings. The specific PI3K/AKT inhibitor LY294002 and the MEK/ERK inhibitor PD98059 were used to study the involvement of these two signaling pathways in the transduction of the angiogenic effects of EPC-CM.
Viable cell number, migration and tubule network formation were significantly augmented upon incubation with EPC-CM. Similar findings were observed for aortic ring outgrowth with significantly longer sprouts. The EPC-CM-induced activities were significantly reduced by the blockage of the PI3K/AKT and MEK/ERK signaling pathways. Similarly to the outcome of the rBCEC4 experiments, inhibition of the PI3K/AKT and MEK/ERK pathways significantly interfered with capillary sprouting induced by EPC-CM.
The present study demonstrates that EPC-derived paracrine factors substantially promote the angiogenic response of brain microvascular endothelial cells. In addition, our findings identified the PI3K/AKT and MEK/ERK pathways to play a central role in mediating these effects.
PMCID: PMC3995762  PMID: 24755675
24.  The human brain intracerebral microvascular system: development and structure 
The capillary from the meningeal inner pial lamella play a crucial role in the development and structural organization of the cerebral cortex extrinsic and intrinsic microvascular compartments. Only pial capillaries are capable of perforating through the cortex external glial limiting membrane (EGLM) to enter into the nervous tissue, although incapable of perforating the membrane to exit the brain. Circulatory dynamics and functional demands determine which capillaries become arterial and which capillaries become venous. The perforation of the cortex EGLM by pial capillaries is a complex process characterized by three fundamental stages: (1) pial capillary contact with the EGLM with fusion of vascular and glial basal laminae at the contact site, (2) endothelial cell filopodium penetration through the fussed laminae with the formation of a funnel between them that accompanies it into the nervous tissue while remaining open to the meningeal interstitium and, (3) penetration of the whole capillary carrying the open funnel with it and establishing an extravascular Virchow-Robin Compartment (V-RC) that maintains the perforating vessel extrinsic (outside) the nervous tissue through its entire length. The V-RC is walled internally by the vascular basal lamina and externally by the basal lamina of joined glial cells endfeet. The VRC outer glial wall appear as an extension of the cortex superficial EGLM. All the perforating vessels within the V-RCs constitute the cerebral cortex extrinsic microvascular compartment. These perforating vessels are the only one capable of responding to inflammatory insults. The V-RC remains open (for life) to the meningeal interstitium permitting the exchanges of fluid and of cells between brain and meninges. The V-RC function as the brain sole drainage (prelymphatic) system in both physiological as well as pathological situations. During cortical development, capillaries emerge from the perforating vessels, by endothelial cells growing sprouts analogous to their angiogenesis, entering into their corresponding V-RCs. These new capillaries to enter into the nervous tissue must perforate through the V-RC outer glial wall, a process analogous to the original perforation of the cortex EGLM by pial capillaries. These emerging capillaries are incapable of reentering the V-RCs and/or perforating vessels. As the new capillary enters into the nervous tissue, it becomes surrounded by glial endfeet and carries a single basal lamina (possibly glial). Capillaries emerging from contiguous perforators establish an anastomotic plexus between them, by mechanisms still poorly understood. The capillaries of this anastomotic plexus constitute the cerebral cortex intrinsic microvascular compartment and together constitute the so-called blood-brain-barrier. The intrinsic capillaries are changing and readapting continuously, by both active angiogenesis and reabsorption, to the gray matter neurons developmental and functional needs. The brain intrinsic capillaries are among the most active microvessels of the human body. Unresolved developmental and functional aspects concerning the cerebral cortex intrinsic capillary plexus need to be further investigated.
PMCID: PMC3440694  PMID: 22993505
EGLM; endothelial cell filopodium; human brain; intracerebral microvascular system; meningeal inner pial lamella
25.  Blood vessel remodeling in pig ovarian follicles during the periovulatory period: an immunohistochemistry and SEM-corrosion casting study 
The present research aims to describe the process of vascular readjustment occurring in pig ovary during the periovulatory phase (from LH surge to ovulation) that drives the transformation of the follicle, a limited blood supplied structure, into the corpus luteum, a highly vascularised endocrine gland required to maintain high levels of progesterone in pregnancy. The swine model was chosen because it is characterized by a long periovulatory window (about 40–44 hrs-similar to human) that permits to recover follicles at a precise endocrinological timing.
By validated hormonal protocol (eCG+hCG), able to mimic the physiologic gonadotropin stimulation, preovulatory follicles (PreOFs, 60 h-eCG), follicles in the middle (early periovulatory follicles, EPerOFs, 18 h-hCG) or late (LPerOFs, 36 h-hCG) periovulatory phase were isolated from prepubertal gilts. To understand the angiogenic process, morphological/morphometrical analyses were performed by combining immunohistochemistry (IHC) and SEM of vascular corrosion casts (VCC) techniques.
PreOFs showed a vascular plexus with proliferating endothelial cells (EPI). This plexus was characterized by a dense inner capillary network, with angiogenic figures, connected to the outer network by anastomotic vessels (arterioles and venules of the middle network). EPerOFs decreased their EPI, blood vessel extension in the outer network, and evidenced a reduced compactness of blood vessels. In LPerOFs, a rapid neovascularization was associated to an intensive tissue remodeling: the follicle acquired an undulated aspect presenting arterioles/venules near the basal membrane, increased vascular extension by EPI, sprouting and non-sprouting angiogenesis.
The analysis of vascular geometric relations and branching angles evidenced similar values at all stages.
These data allow us to hypothesize that EPerOFs are in a quiescent status. LPerOFs represent the "metamorphic" follicles that rapidly turn-on angiogenesis to sustain a successful corpus luteum formation. Particularly, it is interesting to underlie that the non-sprouting angiogenesis, typical of structures in rapid neovascularization, occurred only in the LPerOFs. Moreover, vascular geometric relations showed as blood vessel remodeling occurs with the "maximum output and the minimum energetic expense".
This knowledge will allow to better understand the mechanisms regulating the reproductive success and to clarify the complex physiological angiogenic process in adult tissues.
PMCID: PMC2720392  PMID: 19607713

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