The canonical Wnt signaling pathway, heavily studied in development and cancer, has recently been implicated in microvascular growth with the use of developmental and in vitro models. To date, however, no study exists showing the effects of perturbing the canonical Wnt pathway in a complete microvascular network undergoing physiological remodeling in vivo. Our objective was to investigate the effects of canonical Wnt inhibition on the microvascular remodeling of adult rats.
Canonical Wnt inhibitor DKK-1, Wnt inhibitor sFRP-1, BSA or saline was superfused onto the exteriorized mesenteric windows of 300g adult female Sprague-Dawley rats for 20 minutes. Three days following surgery, mesenteric windows were imaged intravitally and harvested for immunofluorescence staining with smooth muscle alpha-actin and BRDU.
We observed prominent differences in the response of the mesenteric microvasculature amongst the various treatment groups. Significant increases in hemorrhage area, vascular density, and draining vessel diameter were observed in windows treated with Wnt inhibitors as compared to control-treated windows. Additionally, confocal imaging analysis showed significant increases in proliferating cells as well as evidence of proliferating smooth muscle cells along venules.
Together, our results suggest that canonical Wnt inhibition plays an important role in microvascular remodeling, specifically venular remodeling.