Activities as diverse as migration, proliferation and patterning occur simultaneously and in a coordinated fashion during tissue morphogenesis. In the growing vasculature, the formation of motile, invasive and filopodia-carrying endothelial sprouts is balanced with the stabilisation of blood-transporting vessels. Here, we show that sprouting endothelial cells in the retina have high rates of VEGF uptake, VEGF receptor endocytosis and turnover. These internalisation processes are opposed by atypical protein kinase C activity in more stable and mature vessels. aPKC phosphorylates Dab2, a clathrin-associated sorting protein that, together with the transmembrane protein ephrin-B2 and the cell polarity regulator PAR-3, enables VEGF receptor endocytosis and downstream signal transduction. Accordingly, VEGF receptor internalisation and the angiogenic growth of vascular beds are defective in loss-of-function mice lacking key components of this regulatory pathway. Our work uncovers how vessel growth is dynamically controlled by local VEGFR endocytosis and the activity of cell polarity proteins.
Myofibroblasts are the major source of extracellular matrix components that accumulate during tissue fibrosis, and hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are the major source of myofibroblasts in the liver. To date, robust systems to genetically manipulate these cells have not existed. We report that Pdgfrb-Cre inactivates genes in murine HSCs with high efficiency. We used this system to delete the αv integrin subunit because of the suggested role of multiple αv integrins as central mediators of fibrosis in multiple organs. Depletion of the αv integrin subunit in HSCs protected mice from CCl4-induced hepatic fibrosis, whereas global loss of αvβ3, αvβ5 or αvβ6 or conditional loss of αvβ8 on HSCs did not. Pdgfrb-Cre effectively targeted myofibroblasts in multiple organs, and depletion of αv integrins using this system was also protective in models of pulmonary and renal fibrosis. Critically, pharmacological blockade of αv integrins by a novel small molecule (CWHM 12) attenuated both liver and lung fibrosis, even when administered after fibrosis was established. These data identify a core pathway that regulates fibrosis, and suggest that pharmacological targeting of all αv integrins may have clinical utility in the treatment of patients with a broad range of fibrotic diseases.
The endothelial Tie1 receptor is ligand-less, but interacts with the Tie2 receptor for angiopoietins (Angpt). Angpt2 is expressed in tumor blood vessels, and its blockade inhibits tumor angiogenesis. Here we found that Tie1 deletion from the endothelium of adult mice inhibits tumor angiogenesis and growth by decreasing endothelial cell survival in tumor vessels, without affecting normal vasculature. Treatment with VEGF or VEGFR-2 blocking antibodies similarly reduced tumor angiogenesis and growth; however, no additive inhibition was obtained by targeting both Tie1 and VEGF/VEGFR-2. In contrast, treatment of Tie1-deficient mice with a soluble form of the extracellular domain of Tie2, which blocks Angpt activity, resulted in additive inhibition of tumor growth. Notably, Tie1 deletion decreased sprouting angiogenesis and increased Notch pathway activity in the postnatal retinal vasculature, while pharmacological Notch suppression in the absence of Tie1 promoted retinal hypervasularization. Moreover, substantial additive inhibition of the retinal vascular front migration was observed when Angpt2 blocking antibodies were administered to Tie1-deficient pups. Thus, Tie1 regulates tumor angiogenesis, postnatal sprouting angiogenesis, and endothelial cell survival, which are controlled by VEGF, Angpt, and Notch signals. Our results suggest that targeting Tie1 in combination with Angpt/Tie2 has the potential to improve antiangiogenic therapy.
The density of native (pre-existing) collaterals varies widely and is a significant determinant of variation in severity of stroke, myocardial infarction and peripheral artery disease. However, little is known about mechanisms responsible for formation of the collateral circulation in healthy tissues.
We previously found that variation in VEGF expression causes differences in collateral density of newborn and adult mice. Herein, we sought to determine mechanisms of collaterogenesis in the embryo and the role of VEGF in this process.
Methods and Results
Pial collaterals begin forming between embryonic day (E) 13.5 and 14.5 as sprout-like extensions from arterioles of existing cerebral artery trees. Global VEGF-A overexpressing mice (Vegf hi/+) formed more—and Vegf lo/+ formed fewer—collaterals during embryogenesis, in association with differences in vascular patterning. Conditional global reduction of Vegf or Flk1 only during collaterogenesis significantly reduced collateral formation, but now without affecting vascular patterning, and the effects remained in adulthood. Endothelial-specific Vegf reduction had no effect on collaterogenesis. Endothelial-specific reduction of a disintegrin-and-metalloprotease-domain-10 (Adam10) and inhibition of γ-secretase increased collateral formation, consistent with their roles in VEGF-induced Notch1 activation and suppression of “pro-sprouting” signals. Endothelial-specific knockdown of Adam17 reduced collateral formation, consistent with its roles in endothelial cell migration and embryonic vascular stabilization, but not in activation of ligand-bound Notch1. These effects also remained in adulthood.
Formation of pial collaterals occurs during a narrow developmental window via a sprouting angiogenesis-like mechanism, requires paracrine VEGF-stimulation of Flk1-Notch signaling, and adult collateral number is dependent on embryonic collaterogenesis.
collateral; angiogenesis; VEGF; ADAM; embryo
The peripheral nervous system has astonishing regenerative capabilities in that cut nerves are able to reconnect and re-establish their function. Schwann cells are important players in this process, during which they dedifferentiate to a progenitor/stem cell and promote axonal regrowth. Here, we report that fibroblasts also play a key role. Upon nerve cut, ephrin-B/EphB2 signaling between fibroblasts and Schwann cells results in cell sorting, followed by directional collective cell migration of Schwann cells out of the nerve stumps to guide regrowing axons across the wound. Mechanistically, we find that cell-sorting downstream of EphB2 is mediated by the stemness factor Sox2 through N-cadherin relocalization to Schwann cell-cell contacts. In vivo, loss of EphB2 signaling impaired organized migration of Schwann cells, resulting in misdirected axonal regrowth. Our results identify a link between Ephs and Sox proteins, providing a mechanism by which progenitor cells can translate environmental cues to orchestrate the formation of new tissue.
The functional diversity of the arterial and venous endothelia is regulated through a complex system of signalling pathways and downstream transcription factors. Here we report that the transcription factor Sox17, which is known as a regulator of endoderm and hemopoietic differentiation, is selectively expressed in arteries, and not in veins, in the mouse embryo and in mouse postnatal retina and adult. Endothelial cell-specific inactivation of Sox17 in the mouse embryo is accompanied by a lack of arterial differentiation and vascular remodelling that results in embryo death in utero. In mouse postnatal retina, abrogation of Sox17 expression in endothelial cells leads to strong vascular hypersprouting, loss of arterial identity and large arteriovenous malformations. Mechanistically, Sox17 acts upstream of the Notch system and downstream of the canonical Wnt system. These data introduce Sox17 as a component of the complex signalling network that orchestrates arterial/venous specification.
The transcription factor Sox17 is required for the development of the vasculature in vertebrates. Here Corada et al. show that Sox17 acts downstream of Wnt signalling and upstream of Notch signalling in the regulation of artery and vein differentiation in mice.
Gene expression profiling of various cell lineages has provided invaluable insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating cellular development and differentiation. However, in vivo molecular profiling of rare and interspersed cell populations, such as endothelial cells, has remained challenging. We have generated a versatile floxed translating ribosome affinity purification (TRAP) mouse model, mCherryTRAP, for Cre-dependent translational profiling of distinct cell lineages from intact tissues. To identify cell type–specific transcripts using TRAP, the data have to be filtered to remove both background transcripts not expressed in the profiled cell type and transcripts expressed in all cell populations of the tissue/organ. Filtering has previously been achieved using transcribed RNA from the tissue/organ. Using the mCherryTRAP model, we demonstrate extensive differential expression of RNAs between the translatome and transcriptome of embryonic brains and kidneys. We evaluate the implications of these data for TRAP studies of abundant and rare cell populations. Finally, we demonstrate the applicability of the technology to study organ-specific endothelial cell differentiation.
The NG2 proteoglycan stimulates the proliferation and migration of various immature cell types, including pericytes. However, the role of NG2 in mediating pericyte/endothelial cell interaction has been less clear. In this study, we show that pericyte-specific NG2 ablation causes several structural deficits in blood vessels in intracranial B16F10 melanomas, including decreased pericyte ensheathment of endothelial cells, diminished formation of endothelial junctions, and reduced assembly of the vascular basal lamina. These deficits result in decreased tumor vessel patency, increased vessel leakiness, and increased intratumoral hypoxia. NG2-dependent mechanisms of pericyte interaction with endothelial cells are further explored in pericyte/endothelial cell co-cultures. siRNA-mediated NG2 knockdown in pericytes leads to reduced formation of pericyte/endothelial networks, reduced formation of ZO-1 positive endothelial cell junctions, and increased permeability of endothelial cell monolayers. We also show that NG2 knockdown results in loss of β1 integrin activation in endothelial cells, revealing a mechanism for NG2-dependent cross talk between pericytes and endothelial cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10456-013-9378-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Blood vessels; Co-culture systems; Endothelial cells; NG2 proteoglycan; Pericytes; β1 integrins
This paper describes a ternary protein complex consisting of junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A), tetraspanin CD9, and αvβ3 integrin in endothelial cells. In this complex, CD9 links JAM-A to αvβ3 integrin to regulate basic fibroblast growth factor–specific mitogen-activated protein kinase activation, endothelial cell migration, and tube formation. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of the signaling events during angiogenesis.
Junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) is a member of the immunoglobulin family with diverse functions in epithelial cells, including cell migration, cell contact maturation, and tight junction formation. In endothelial cells, JAM-A has been implicated in basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)-regulated angiogenesis through incompletely understood mechanisms. In this paper, we identify tetraspanin CD9 as novel binding partner for JAM-A in endothelial cells. CD9 acts as scaffold and assembles a ternary JAM-A-CD9-αvβ3 integrin complex from which JAM-A is released upon bFGF stimulation. CD9 interacts predominantly with monomeric JAM-A, which suggests that bFGF induces signaling by triggering JAM-A dimerization. Among the two vitronectin receptors, αvβ3 and αvβ5 integrin, which have been shown to cooperate during angiogenic signaling with bFGF and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), respectively, CD9 links JAM-A specifically to αvβ3 integrin. In line with this, knockdown of CD9 blocks bFGF- but not VEGF-induced ERK1/2 activation. JAM-A or CD9 knockdown impairs endothelial cell migration and tube formation. Our findings indicate that CD9 incorporates monomeric JAM-A into a complex with αvβ3 integrin, which responds to bFGF stimulation by JAM-A release to regulate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation, endothelial cell migration, and angiogenesis. The data also provide new mechanistic insights into the cooperativity between bFGF and αvβ3 integrin during angiogenic signaling.
Retinal vessel homeostasis ensures normal ocular functions. Consequently, retinal hypovascularization and neovascularization, causing a lack and an excess of vessels, respectively, are hallmarks of human retinal pathology. We provide evidence that EC-specific genetic ablation of either the transcription factor SRF or its cofactors MRTF-A and MRTF-B, but not the SRF cofactors ELK1 or ELK4, cause retinal hypovascularization in the postnatal mouse eye. Inducible, EC-specific deficiency of SRF or MRTF-A/MRTF-B during postnatal angiogenesis impaired endothelial tip cell filopodia protrusion, resulting in incomplete formation of the retinal primary vascular plexus, absence of the deep plexi, and persistence of hyaloid vessels. All of these features are typical of human hypovascularization-related vitreoretinopathies, such as familial exudative vitreoretinopathies including Norrie disease. In contrast, conditional EC deletion of Srf in adult murine vessels elicited intraretinal neovascularization that was reminiscent of the age-related human pathologies retinal angiomatous proliferation and macular telangiectasia. These results indicate that angiogenic homeostasis is ensured by differential stage-specific functions of SRF target gene products in the developing versus the mature retinal vasculature and suggest that the actin-directed MRTF-SRF signaling axis could serve as a therapeutic target in the treatment of human vascular retinal diseases.
During mammalian development, a subpopulation of endothelial cells in the cardinal vein (CV) expresses lymphatic-specific genes and subsequently develops into the first lymphatic structures, collectively termed as lymph sacs. Budding, sprouting and ballooning of lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) have been proposed to underlie the emergence of LECs from the CV, but the exact mechanisms of lymph vessel formation remain poorly understood. Applying selective plane illumination-based ultramicroscopy to entire wholemount-immunostained mouse embryos, we visualized the complete developing vascular system with cellular resolution. Here, we report emergence of the earliest detectable LECs as strings of loosely connected cells between the CV and superficial venous plexus. Subsequent aggregation of LECs resulted in formation of two distinct, previously unidentified lymphatic structures, the dorsal peripheral longitudinal lymphatic vessel (PLLV) and the ventral primordial thoracic duct (pTD), which at later stages formed a direct contact with the CV. Providing new insights into their function, we found vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGF-C) and the matrix component CCBE1 indispensable for LEC budding and migration. Altogether, we present a significantly more detailed view and novel model of early lymphatic development.
Ultramicroscopy of wholemount mouse embryos uncovers the first, previously unknown lymphatic structures in mammals: the dorsal longitudinal lymphatic vessel and the ventral primordial thoracic duct, which eventually connect with the cardinal vein as previously described.
lymph vessel development; ultramicroscopy; VEGFR-3; CCBE1; VEGF-C
Little is known about the transcriptional regulation of tumor angiogenesis, and tumor ECs (tECs) remain poorly characterized. Here, we studied the expression pattern of the transcription factor Sox17 in the vasculature of murine and human tumors and investigated the function of Sox17 during tumor angiogenesis using Sox17 genetic mouse models. Sox17 was specifically expressed in tECs in a heterogeneous pattern; in particular, strong Sox17 expression distinguished tECs with high VEGFR2 expression. Whereas overexpression of Sox17 in tECs promoted tumor angiogenesis and vascular abnormalities, Sox17 deletion in tECs reduced tumor angiogenesis and normalized tumor vessels, inhibiting tumor growth. Tumor vessel normalization by Sox17 deletion was long lasting, improved anticancer drug delivery into tumors, and inhibited tumor metastasis. Sox17 promoted endothelial sprouting behavior and upregulated VEGFR2 expression in a cell-intrinsic manner. Moreover, Sox17 increased the percentage of tumor-associated CD11b+Gr-1+ myeloid cells within tumors. The vascular effects of Sox17 persisted throughout tumor growth. Interestingly, Sox17 expression specific to tECs was also observed in highly vascularized human glioblastoma samples. Our findings establish Sox17 as a key regulator of tumor angiogenesis and tumor progression.
The junctional adhesion molecule (JAM)-C is a widely expressed adhesion molecule regulating cell adhesion, cell polarity and inflammation. JAM-C expression and function in the central nervous system (CNS) has been poorly characterized to date. Here we show that JAM-C−/− mice backcrossed onto the C57BL/6 genetic background developed a severe hydrocephalus. An in depth immunohistochemical study revealed specific immunostaining for JAM-C in vascular endothelial cells in the CNS parenchyma, the meninges and in the choroid plexus of healthy C57BL/6 mice. Additional JAM-C immunostaining was detected on ependymal cells lining the ventricles and on choroid plexus epithelial cells. Despite the presence of hemorrhages in the brains of JAM-C−/− mice, our study demonstrates that development of the hydrocephalus was not due to a vascular function of JAM-C as endothelial re-expression of JAM-C failed to rescue the hydrocephalus phenotype of JAM-C−/− C57BL/6 mice. Evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) circulation within the ventricular system of JAM-C−/− mice excluded occlusion of the cerebral aqueduct as the cause of hydrocephalus development but showed the acquisition of a block or reduction of CSF drainage from the lateral to the 3rd ventricle in JAM-C−/− C57BL/6 mice. Taken together, our study suggests that JAM-C−/− C57BL/6 mice model the important role for JAM-C in brain development and CSF homeostasis as recently observed in humans with a loss-of-function mutation in JAM-C.
Notch signaling controls fundamental aspects of angiogenic blood vessel growth including the selection of sprouting tip cells, endothelial proliferation and arterial differentiation. The E3 ubiquitin ligase Fbxw7 is part of the SCF protein complex responsible for the polyubiquitination and thereby proteasomal degradation of substrates such as Notch, c-Myc and c-Jun. Here, we show that Fbxw7 is a critical regulator of angiogenesis in the mouse retina and the zebrafish embryonic trunk, which we attribute to its role in the degradation of active Notch. Growth of retinal blood vessel was impaired and the Notch ligand Dll4, which is also a Notch target, upregulated in inducible and endothelial cell-specific Fbxw7iECKO mutant mice. The stability of the cleaved and active Notch intracellular domain was increased after siRNA knockdown of the E3 ligase in cultured human endothelial cells. Injection of fbxw7 morpholinos interfered with the sprouting of zebrafish intersegmental vessels (ISVs). Arguing strongly that Notch and not other Fbxw7 substrates are primarily responsible for these phenotypes, the genetic inactivation of Notch pathway components reversed the impaired ISV growth in the zebrafish embryo as well as sprouting and proliferation in the mouse retina. Our findings establish that Fbxw7 is a potent positive regulator of angiogenesis that limits the activity of Notch in the endothelium of the growing vasculature.
JAM-C is an adhesion molecule that is expressed on cells within the vascular compartment and epithelial cells and, to date, has been largely studied in the context of inflammatory events. Using immunolabeling procedures in conjunction with confocal and electron microscopy, we show here that JAM-C is also expressed in peripheral nerves and that this expression is localized to Schwann cells at junctions between adjoining myelin end loops. Sciatic nerves from JAM-C–deficient [having the JAM-C gene knocked out (KO)] mice exhibited loss of integrity of the myelin sheath and defective nerve conduction as indicated by morphological and electrophysiological studies, respectively. In addition, behavioral tests showed motor abnormalities in the KO animals. JAM-C was also expressed in human sural nerves with an expression profile similar to that seen in mice. These results demonstrate that JAM-C is a component of the autotypic junctional attachments of Schwann cells and plays an important role in maintaining the integrity and function of myelinated peripheral nerves.
As revealed in a new model of cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM), the timing of ablation of Ccm genes determines whether or not CCM lesions arise in brain and retina venous beds.
Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCM) are vascular malformations of the central nervous system (CNS) that lead to cerebral hemorrhages. Familial CCM occurs as an autosomal dominant condition caused by loss-of-function mutations in one of the three CCM genes. Constitutive or tissue-specific ablation of any of the Ccm genes in mice previously established the crucial role of Ccm gene expression in endothelial cells for proper angiogenesis. However, embryonic lethality precluded the development of relevant CCM mouse models. Here, we show that endothelial-specific Ccm2 deletion at postnatal day 1 (P1) in mice results in vascular lesions mimicking human CCM lesions. Consistent with CCM1/3 involvement in the same human disease, deletion of Ccm1/3 at P1 in mice results in similar CCM lesions. The lesions are located in the cerebellum and the retina, two organs undergoing intense postnatal angiogenesis. Despite a pan-endothelial Ccm2 deletion, CCM lesions are restricted to the venous bed. Notably, the consequences of Ccm2 loss depend on the developmental timing of Ccm2 ablation. This work provides a highly penetrant and relevant CCM mouse model.
Lipid phosphate phosphatase 3 in endothelial and epithelial cells promotes efficient T cell emigration from the thymus to the periphery.
The signaling lipid sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) stabilizes the vasculature, directs lymphocyte egress from lymphoid organs, and shapes inflammatory responses. However, little is known about how S1P distribution is controlled in vivo, and it is not clear how a ubiquitously made lipid functions as a signal that requires precise spatial and temporal control. We have found that lipid phosphate phosphatase 3 (LPP3) enables efficient export of mature T cells from the thymus into circulation, and several lines of evidence suggest that LPP3 promotes exit by destroying thymic S1P. Although five additional S1P-degrading enzymes are expressed in the thymus, they cannot compensate for the loss of LPP3. Moreover, conditional deletion of LPP3 in either epithelial cells or endothelial cells is sufficient to inhibit egress. These results suggest that S1P generation and destruction are tightly regulated and that LPP3 is essential to establish the balance.
Junction adhesion molecules-A, -B, and -C (Jams) are cell surface glycoproteins that have been shown to play an important role in the assembly and maintenance of tight junctions and in the establishment of epithelial cell polarity. Recent studies reported that Jam-C mRNA was increased threefold in the all-cone retina of the Nrl−/− mouse, suggesting that Jam-C is required for maturation and polarization of cone photoreceptors cells. We examined the expression of Jams in the mouse retina by using confocal immunofluorescence localization. Jam-C was detected in tight junctions of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and at the outer limiting membrane (OLM) in the specialized adherens junctions between Müller and photoreceptor cells. Additionally, Jam-C labeling was observed in the long apical processes of Müller and RPE cells that extend between the inner segments and outer segments of photoreceptors, respectively. Jam-B was also detected at the OLM. In the developing retina, Jam-B and -C were detected at the apical junctions of embryonic retinal neuroepithelia, suggesting a role for Jams in retinogenesis. In eyes from Jam-C−/− mice, retinal lamination, polarity, and photoreceptor morphology appeared normal. Although Jam-A was not detected at the OLM in wild-type retinas, it was present at the OLM in retinas of Jam-C−/− mice. These findings indicate that up-regulation of Jam-A in the retina compensates for the loss of Jam-C. The nonclassical distribution of Jam-C in the apical membranes of Müller cells and RPE suggests that Jam-C has a novel function in the retina.
Jam-C; Jam-B; retina; cell polarity; adherens junction; outer limiting membrane
Cardiac valve formation is crucial for embryonic and adult heart function. Valve malformations constitute the most common congenital cardiac defect, but little is known about the molecular mechanisms regulating valve formation and homeostasis. Here, we show that endocardial Notch1 and myocardial Bmp2 signal integration establish a valve-forming field between 2 chamber developmental domains. Patterning occurs through the activation of endocardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) exclusively in prospective valve territories. Mice with constitutive endocardial Notch1 activity ectopically express Hey1 and Heyl. They also display an activated mesenchymal gene program in ventricles and a partial (noninvasive) EMT in vitro that becomes invasive upon BMP2 treatment. Snail1, TGF-β2, or Notch1 inhibition reduces BMP2-induced ventricular transformation and invasion, whereas BMP2 treatment inhibits endothelial Gsk3β, stabilizing Snail1 and promoting invasiveness. Integration of Notch and Bmp2 signals is consistent with Notch1 signaling being attenuated after myocardial Bmp2 deletion. Notch1 activation in myocardium extends Hey1 expression to nonchamber myocardium, represses Bmp2, and impairs EMT. In contrast, Notch deletion abrogates endocardial Hey gene transcription and extends Bmp2 expression to the ventricular endocardium. This embryonic Notch1-Bmp2-Snail1 relationship may be relevant in adult valve disease, in which decreased NOTCH signaling causes valve mesenchyme cell formation, fibrosis, and calcification.
Endothelial cells (ECs) form extensive, highly branched and hierarchically organized tubular networks in vertebrates to ensure the proper distribution of molecular and cellular cargo in the vertebrate body. The growth of this vascular system during development, tissue repair or in disease conditions involves the sprouting, migration and proliferation of endothelial cells in a process termed angiogenesis. Surprisingly, specialized ECs, so-called tip cells, which lead and guide endothelial sprouts, share many feature with another guidance structure, the axonal growth cone. Tip cells are motile, invasive and extend numerous filopodial protrusions sensing growth factors, extracellular matrix and other attractive or repulsive cues in their tissue environment. Axonal growth cones and endothelial tip cells also respond to signals belonging to the same molecular families, such as Slits and Roundabouts, Netrins and UNC5 receptors, Semaphorins, Plexins and Neuropilins, and Eph receptors and ephrin ligands. Here we summarize fundamental principles of angiogenic growth, the selection and function of tip cells and the underlying regulation by guidance cues, the Notch pathway and vascular endothelial growth factor signaling.
“Tip cells” guide branching of blood vessels during development and tissue repair. These are surprisingly similar to axon growth cones, using many of the same guidance molecules.
Lymphatic system development comes into sharper focus.
The transcription factor Prox1 is the master regulator of lymphatic endothelial cell differentiation and its expression initiates the morphogenesis of the lymphatic vasculature in the early embryo. Two new studies now answer some fundamental questions concerning Prox1 biology.
The cytochrome P450-dependent monooxygenase system catalyzes the metabolism of xenobiotics and endogenous compounds, including hormones and retinoic acid. In order to establish the role of these enzymes in embryogenesis, we have inactivated the system through the deletion of the gene for the electron donor to all microsomal P450 proteins, cytochrome P450 reductase (Cpr). Mouse embryos homozygous for this deletion died in early to middle gestation (∼9.5 days postcoitum [dpc]) and exhibited a number of novel phenotypes, including the severe inhibition of vasculogenesis and hematopoiesis. In addition, defects in the brain, limbs, and cell types where CPR was shown to be expressed were observed. Some of the observed abnormalities have been associated with perturbations in retinoic acid homeostasis in later embryogenesis. Consistent with this possibility, embryos at 9.5 dpc had significantly elevated levels of retinoic acid and reduced levels of retinol. Further, some of the observed phenotypes could be either reversed or exacerbated by decreasing or increasing maternal retinoic acid exposure, respectively. Detailed analysis demonstrated a close relationship between the observed phenotype and the expression of genes controlling vasculogenesis. These data demonstrate that the cytochrome P450 system plays a key role in early embryonic development; this process appears to be, at least in part, controlled by regional concentrations of retinoic acid and has profound effects on blood vessel formation.