Vascular compromise and the accompanying perfusion deficits cause or complicate a large array of disease conditions and treatment failures. This has prompted the exploration of therapeutic strategies to repair or regenerate vasculatures thereby establishing more competent microcirculatory beds. Growing evidence indicates that an increase in vessel numbers within a tissue does not necessarily promote an increase in tissue perfusion. Effective regeneration of a microcirculation entails the integration of new stable microvessel segments into the network via neovascularization. Beginning with angiogenesis, neovascularization entails an integrated series of vascular activities leading to the formation of a new mature microcirculation and includes vascular guidance and inosculation, vessel maturation, pruning, arterio-venous specification, network patterning, structural adaptation, intussusception, and microvascular stabilization. While the generation of new vessel segments is necessary to expand a network, without the concomitant neovessel remodeling and adaptation processes intrinsic to microvascular network formation, these additional vessel segments give rise to a dysfunctional microcirculation. While many of the mechanisms regulating angiogenesis have been detailed, a thorough understanding of the mechanisms driving post-angiogenesis activities specific to neovascularization has yet to be fully realized, but is necessary in order to develop effective therapeutic strategies for repairing compromised microcirculations as a means to treat disease.
Regenerative medicine seeks to repair or replace dysfunctional tissues with engineered biological or biohybrid systems. Current clinical regenerative models utilize simple uniform tissue constructs formed with cells cultured onto biocompatible scaffolds. Future regenerative therapies will require the fabrication of complex three-dimensional constructs containing multiple cell types and extracellular matrices. We believe bioprinting technologies will provide a key role in the design and construction of future engineered tissues for cell-based and regenerative therapies. This review describes the current state-of-the-art bioprinting technologies, focusing on direct-write bioprinting. We describe a number of process and device considerations for successful bioprinting of composite biohybrid constructs. In addition, we have provided baseline direct-write printing parameters for a hydrogel system (Pluronic F127) often used in cardiovascular applications. Direct-write dispensed lines (gels with viscosities ranging from 30 mPa*s to greater than 600×106 mPa*s) were measured following mechanical and pneumatic printing via three commercially available needle sizes (20ga, 25ga, and 30ga). Example patterns containing microvascular cells and isolated microvessel fragments were also bioprinted into composite 3D structures. Cells and vessel fragments remained viable and maintained in vitro behavior after incorporation into biohybrid structures. Direct-write bioprinting of biologicals provides a unique method to design and fabricate complex, multi-component 3D structures for experimental use. We hope our design insights and baseline parameter descriptions of direct-write bioprinting will provide a useful foundation for colleagues to incorporate this 3D fabrication method into future regenerative therapies.
Bioprinting; Regenerative Medicine; Tissue Engineering; Hydrogels; Biohybrid Devices
Vascular tone control is essential in blood pressure regulation, shock, ischemia-reperfusion, inflammation, vessel injury/repair, wound healing, temperature regulation, digestion, exercise physiology, and metabolism. Here we show that a well-known growth factor, FGF2, long thought to be involved in many developmental and homeostatic processes, including growth of the tissue layers of vessel walls, functions in vascular tone control. Fgf2 knockout mice are morphologically normal and display decreased vascular smooth muscle contractility, low blood pressure and thrombocytosis. Following intra-arterial mechanical injury, FGF2-deficient vessels undergo a normal hyperplastic response. These results force us to reconsider the function of FGF2 in vascular development and homeostasis in terms of vascular tone control.
Vascular networks respond to chronic alterations in blood supply by structural remodeling. Previously, we showed that blood flow changes in the mouse gracilis artery lead to transient diameter increases, which can generate large increases in circumferential wall stress. Here, we examine the associated changes in the medial area of the arterial wall and the effects on circumferential wall stress.
To induce blood flow changes, one of the two feeding vessels to the gracilis artery was surgically removed. At 7 to 56 days after blood flow interruption, the vasculature was perfused with India ink for morphological measurements, and processed for immuno-cytochemistry to mark the medial cross-section area. Theoretical simulations of hemodynamics were used to analyze the data.
During adaptive increases in vessel diameter, increases in medial area were observed, most strongly in the middle region of the artery. Simulations showed that this increase in medial area limits the increase in estimated circumferential stress during vascular adaptation to less than 50%, in contrast to an increase of up to 250% if the medial area had remained unchanged.
During vascular adaptation, increases in circumferential stress are limited by growth of the media coordinated with diameter changes.
vascular adaptation; blood flow; ischemia; smooth muscle cells; endothelial cells
Fibrin is an attractive material for regenerative medicine applications. It not only forms a polymer but also contains cryptic matrikines that are released upon its activation/degradation and enhance the regenerative process. Despite this advantageous biology associated with fibrin, commercially available systems (e.g. TISSEEL) display limited regenerative capacity. This limitation is in part due to formulations that are optimized for tissue sealant applications and result in dense fibrous networks that limit cell infiltration. Recent evidence suggests that polymerization knob ‘B’ engagement of polymerization hole ‘b’ activates an alternative polymerization mechanism in fibrin, which may result in altered single fiber mechanical properties. We hypothesized that augmenting fibrin polymerization through the addition of PEGylated knob peptides with specificity to hole ‘b’ (AHRPYAAC-PEG) would result in distinct fibrin polymer architectures with grossly different physical properties. Polymerization dynamics, polymer architecture, diffusivity, viscoelasticity, and degradation dynamics were analyzed. Results indicate that specific engagement of hole ‘b’ with PEGylated knob ‘B’ conjugates during polymerization significantly enhances the porosity of and subsequent diffusivity through fibrin polymers. Paradoxically, these polymers also display increased viscoelastic properties and decreased susceptibility to degradation. As a result, fibrin polymer strength was significantly augmented without any adverse effects on angiogenesis within the modified polymers.
Fibrin; Angiogenesis; Mechanical properties; Biodegradation
During neovascularization, the end result is a new functional microcirculation comprised of a network of mature microvessels with specific topologies. While much is known concerning the mechanisms underlying the initiation of angiogenesis, it remains unclear how the final architecture of microcirculatory beds is regulated. To begin to address this, we determined the impact of angiogenic neovessel pre-patterning on the final microvascular network topology using an implant model of implant neovascularization.
Methods and Results
To test this, we used 3-D direct-write bioprinting or physical constraints in a manner permitting post-angiogenesis vascular remodeling and adaptation to pattern angiogenic microvascular precursors (neovessels formed from isolated microvessel segments) in 3-dimensional collagen gels prior to implantation and subsequent network formation. Neovasculatures pre-patterned into parallel arrays formed functional networks following 4 weeks post-implantation, but lost the pre-patterned architecture. However, maintenance of uniaxial physical constraints during post-angiogenesis remodeling of the implanted neovasculatures produced networks with aligned microvessels as well as an altered proportional distribution of arterioles, capillaries and venules.
Here we show that network topology resulting from implanted microvessel precursors is independent from pre-patterning of precursors but can be influenced by a patterning stimulus involving tissue deformation during post-angiogenesis remodeling and maturation.
microcirculation; regeneration; bioprinting; vascular engineering; neovascularization
Recent data have implicated thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) signaling in the acute neuropathological events that occur in microvascular endothelial cells (ECs) following spinal cord injury (SCI) (Benton et al., 2008b). We hypothesized that deletion of TSP-1 or its receptor CD47 would reduce these pathological events following SCI. CD47 is expressed in a variety of tissues, including vascular ECs and neutrophils. CD47 binds to TSP-1 and inhibits angiogenesis. CD47 also binds to the signal regulatory protein (SIRP)α and facilitates neutrophil diapedesis across ECs to sites of injury. After contusive SCI, TSP-1−/− mice did not show functional improvement compared to wildtype (WT) mice. CD47−/− mice, however, exhibited functional locomotor improvements and greater white matter sparing. Whereas targeted deletion of either CD47 or TSP-1 improved acute epicenter vascularity in contused mice, only CD47 deletion reduced neutrophil diapedesis and increased microvascular perfusion. An ex vivo model of the CNS microvasculature revealed that CD47−/−-derived microvessels (MVs) prominently exhibit adherent WT or CD47−/− neutrophils on the endothelial lumen, whereas WT-derived MVs do not. This implicates a defect in diapedesis mediated by the loss of CD47 expression on ECs. In vitro transmigration assays confirmed the role of SIRPα in neutrophil diapedesis through EC monolayers. We conclude that CD47 deletion modestly, but significantly, improves functional recovery from SCI via an increase in vascular patency and a reduction of SIRPα-mediated neutrophil diapedesis, rather than the abrogation of TSP-1-mediated anti-angiogenic signaling.
CD47; thrombospondin-1; spinal cord injury; microvasculature; angiogenesis; inflammation; neutrophils
Vasodilation of lower leg arterioles is impaired in animal models of chronic peripheral ischemia. In addition to arterioles, feed arteries are a critical component of the vascular resistance network, accounting for as much as 50% of the pressure drop across the arterial circulation. Despite the critical importance of feed arteries in blood flow control, the impact of ischemia on feed artery vascular reactivity is unknown. At 14 days following unilateral resection of the femoral–saphenous artery–vein pair, functional vasodilation of the profunda femoris artery was severely impaired, 11 ± 9 versus 152 ± 22%. Although endothelial and smooth muscle-dependent vasodilation were both impaired in ischemic arteries compared to control arteries (Ach: 40 ± 14 versus 81 ± 11%, SNP: 43 ± 12 versus and 85 ± 11%), the responses to acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside were similar, implicating impaired smooth muscle-dependent vasodilation. Conversely, vasoconstriction responses to norepinephrine were not different between ischemic and control arteries, −68 ± 3 versus −66 ± 3%, indicating that smooth muscle cells were functional following the ischemic insult. Finally, maximal dilation responses to acetylcholine, ex vivo, were significantly impaired in the ischemic artery compared to control, 71 ± 9 versus 97 ± 2%, despite a similar generation of myogenic tone to the same intravascular pressure (80 mmHg). These data indicate that ischemia impairs feed artery vasodilation by impairing the responsiveness of the vascular wall to vasodilating stimuli. Future studies to examine the mechanistic basis for the impact of ischemia on vascular reactivity or treatment strategies to improve vascular reactivity following ischemia could provide the foundation for an alternative therapeutic paradigm for peripheral arterial occlusive disease.
vasodilation; reactivity; chronic ischemia; hindlimb; mouse
During the typical healing response to an implanted biomaterial, vascular-rich granulation tissue forms around the implant and later resolves into a relatively avascular, fibrous capsule. We have previously shown that a microvascular construct (MVC) consisting of isolated microvessel fragments suspended in a collagen I gel forms a persistent microcirculation in lieu of avascular scar when implanted. The current study evaluated the potential for microvascular constructs to maintain a vascularized tissue environment around an implanted biomaterial. An analysis of the peri-implant tissue around bare expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE), ePTFE embedded within a microvascular construct, or ePTFE embedded within collagen alone revealed that the presence of the MVC, but not collagen alone, promoted vascular densities comparable to that of the granulation tissue formed around bare ePTFE. The vessels within the microvascular construct surrounding the ePTFE were perfusion competent, as determined by India ink perfusion casting, and extended into the interstices of the polymer. In contrast to bare ePTFE, the presence of the MVC or collagen alone significantly reduced the number of activated macrophages in association with ePTFE. Similar results were observed for ePTFE modified to increase cellularity and prevent the formation of an avascular scar. The microvascular construct may prove effective in forming vascularized tissue environments and limiting the number of activated macrophages around implanted polymers thereby leading to effective implant incorporation.
granulation tissue; fibrous capsule; structural adaptation; microvascular networks
Proper arterial and venous specification is a hallmark of functional vascular networks. While arterial-venous identity is genetically pre-determined during embryo development, it is unknown whether an analogous pre-specification occurs in adult neovascularization. Our goal is to determine whether vessel arterial-venous specification in adult neovascularization is pre-determined by the identity of the originating vessels.
Methods and Results
We assessed identity specification during neovascularization by implanting isolated microvessels of arterial identity from both mice and rats and assessing the identity outcomes of the resulting, newly formed vasculature. These microvessels of arterial identity spontaneously formed a stereotypical, perfused microcirculation comprised of the full complement of microvessel types intrinsic to a mature microvasculature. Changes in microvessel identity occurred during sprouting angiogenesis, with neovessels displaying an ambiguous arterial-venous phenotype associated with reduced EphrinB2 phosphorylation.
Our findings indicate that microvessel arterial-venous identity in adult neovascularization is not necessarily pre-determined and that adult microvessels display a considerable level of phenotypic plasticity during neovascularization. In addition, we show that vessels of arterial identity also hold the potential to undergo sprouting angiogenesis.
We have demonstrated that microvessel fragments (MFs) isolated from adipose retain angiogenic potential in vitro and form a mature, perfused network when implanted. However, adipose-derived microvessels are rich in pro-vascularizing cells that could uniquely drive neovascularization in adipose-derived MFs implants.
Investigate the ability of microvessel fragments from a different vascular bed to recapitulate adipose-derived microvessel angiogenesis and network formation and analyze adipose-derived vessel plasticity by assessing whether vessel function could be modulated by astrocyte-like cells.
MFs were isolated by limited collagenase digestion from rodent brain or adipose and assembled into 3D collagen gels in the presence or absence of GRPs. The resulting neovasculatures that formed following implantation were assessed by measuring 3-D vascularity and vessel permeability to small and large molecular tracers.
Similar to adipose-derived MFs, brain-derived MFs can sprout and form a perfused neovascular network when implanted. Furthermore, when co-implanted in the constructs, GRPs caused adipose-derived vessels to express the brain endothelial marker glucose transporter-1 and to significantly reduce microvessel permeability.
Neovascularization involving isolated microvessel elements is independent of the tissue origin and degree of vessel specialization. In addition, adipose-derived vessels have the ability to respond to environmental signals and change vessel characteristics.
Angiogenesis; vessel permeability; glial restricted precursors; astrocytes; angiogenesis assay
We describe a method for generating primary cultures of human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMVEC). HBMVEC are derived from microvessels isolated from temporal tissue removed during operative treatment of epilepsy. The tissue is mechanically fragmented and size-filtered using polyester meshes. The resulting microvessel fragments are placed onto type-I collagen-coated flasks to allow HBMVEC to migrate and proliferate. The overall process takes under 3 h and does not require specialized equipment or enzymatic processes. HBMVEC are typically cultured for approximately 1 month until confluence. Cultures are highly pure (~97% endothelial cells; ~3% pericytes), reproducible, and display characteristic brain endothelial markers (von Willebrand factor, glucose transporter-1), robust expression of tight and adherens junction proteins, caveolin-1, and efflux protein P-glycoprotein. Monolayers of HBMVEC display characteristic high transendothelial electric resistance and have proven useful in multiple functional studies for in-vitro modeling of the human blood-brain barrier.
Epidemiological studies link arsenic exposure to increased risks of cancers of the skin, kidney, lung, bladder and liver. Additionally, a variety of non-cancerous conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease have been associated with chronic ingestion of low levels of arsenic. However, the biological and molecular mechanisms by which arsenic exerts its effects remain elusive. Here we report increased renal hexokinase II (HKII) expression in response to arsenic exposure both in vivo and in vitro. In our model, HKII was up-regulated in the renal glomeruli of mice exposed to low levels of arsenic (10 ppb or 50 ppb) via their drinking water for up to 21 days. Additionally, a similar effect was observed in cultured renal mesangial cells exposed to arsenic. This correlation between our in vivo and in vitro data provides further evidence for a direct link between altered renal HKII expression and arsenic exposure. Thus, our data suggest that alterations in renal HKII expression may be involved in arsenic-induced pathological conditions involving the kidney. More importantly, these results were obtained using environmentally relevant arsenic concentrations.
Arsenic; Arsenite; Hexokinase
Effective tissue prevascularization depends on new vessel growth and subsequent progression of neovessels into a stable microcirculation. Isolated microvessel fragments in a collagen-based microvascular construct (MVC) spontaneously undergo angiogenesis in static conditions in vitro but form a new microcirculation only when implanted in vivo. We have designed a bioreactor, the dynamic in vitro perfusion (DIP) chamber, to culture MVCs in vitro with perfusion. By altering bioreactor circulation, microvessel fragments in the DIP chamber either maintained stable, nonsprouting, patent vessel morphologies or sprouted endothelial neovessels that extended out into the surrounding collagen matrix (i.e., angiogenesis), yielding networks of neovessels within the MVC. Neovessels formed in regions of the construct predicted by simulation models to have the steepest gradients in oxygen levels and expressed hypoxia inducible factor-1α. By altering circulation conditions in the DIP chamber, we can control, possibly by modulating hypoxic stress, prevascularizing activity in vitro.
We have previously demonstrated that implanted microvessels form a new microcirculation with minimal host-derived vessel investment. Our objective was to define the vascular phenotypes present during neovascularization in these implants and identify post-angiogenesis events. Morphological, functional and transcriptional assessments identified three distinct vascular phenotypes in the implants: sprouting angiogenesis, neovascular remodeling, and network maturation. A sprouting angiogenic phenotype appeared first, characterized by high proliferation and low mural cell coverage. This was followed by a neovascular remodeling phenotype characterized by a perfused, poorly organized neovascular network, reduced proliferation, and re-associated mural cells. The last phenotype included a vascular network organized into a stereotypical tree structure containing vessels with normal perivascular cell associations. In addition, proliferation was low and was restricted to the walls of larger microvessels. The transition from angiogenesis to neovascular remodeling coincided with the appearance of blood flow in the implant neovasculature. Analysis of vascular-specific and global gene expression indicates that the intermediate, neovascular remodeling phenotype is transcriptionally distinct from the other two phenotypes. Therefore, this vascular phenotype likely is not simply a transitional phenotype but a distinct vascular phenotype involving unique cellular and vascular processes. Furthermore, this neovascular remodeling phase may be a normal aspect of the general neovascularization process. Given that this phenotype is arguably dysfunctional, many of the microvasculatures present within compromised or diseased tissues may not represent a failure to progress appropriately through a normally occurring neovascularization phenotype.
neovascularization; neovessel; sprouting; angiogenesis; microvascular remodeling; microcirculation; structural adaptation; gene expression
Mechanical forces are important regulators of cell and tissue phenotype. We hypothesized that mechanical loading and boundary conditions would influence neovessel activity during angiogenesis.
Using an in vitro model of angiogenesis sprouting and a mechanical loading system, we evaluated the effects of boundary conditions and applied loading. The model consisted of rat microvessel fragments cultured in a 3D collagen gel, previously shown to recapitulate angiogenic sprouting observed in vivo. We examined changes in neovascular growth in response to four different mechanical conditions. Neovessel density, diameter, length and orientation were measured from volumetric confocal images of cultures exposed to no external load (free-floating shape control), intrinsic loads (fixed ends, no stretch), static external load (static stretch) or cyclic external load (cyclic stretch).
Neovessels sprouted and grew by the 3rd day of culture and continued to do so during the next 3 days of loading. The numbers of neovessels and branch points were significantly increased in the static stretch group when compared to the free-floating shape control, no stretch or cyclic stretch groups. In all mechanically loaded cultures, neovessel diameter and length distributions were heterogeneous, while they were homogeneous in shape control cultures. Neovessels were significantly more oriented along the direction of mechanical loading than those in the shape controls. Interestingly, collagen fibrils were organized parallel and adjacent to growing neovessels.
Externally applied boundary conditions regulate neovessel sprouting and elongation during angiogenesis, affecting both neovessel growth characteristics and network morphometry. Furthermore, neovessels align parallel to the direction of stress/strain or internally generated traction, and this may be due to collagen fibril alignment induced by the growing neovessels themselves.
boundary conditions; angiogenesis; strain; orientation; morphometry; image analysis
The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a critical role in angiogenesis by providing biochemical and positional cues as well as by mechanically influencing microvessel cell behavior. Considerable information is known concerning the biochemical cues relevant to angiogenesis, but less is known about the mechanical dynamics during active angiogenesis. The objective of this study was to characterize changes in the material properties of a simple angiogenic tissue before and during angiogenesis. During sprouting, there was an overall decrease in tissue stiffness followed by an increase during neovessel elongation. The fall in matrix stiffness coincided with peak MMP mRNA expression and elevated proteolytic activity. An elevated expression of genes for ECM componenets and cell-ECM interaction molecules and a subsequent drop in proteolytic activity (although enzyme levels remained elevated) coincided with the subsequent stiffening.. The results of this study show that the mechanical properties of a scaffold tissue may be actively modified during angiogenesis by the growing microvasculature.
angiogenesis; biomechanics; matrix metalloprotease
Repeated daily dosing of rats with the occupational chemical 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD) depletes the ovary of primordial and primary follicles through an increase in the natural process of atresia. Additionally, in vitro exposure of Postnatal Day 4 (PND 4) rat ovaries to VCD causes similar follicular depletion. This study was designed to investigate survival signaling pathways that may be associated with VCD-induced ovotoxicity in small preantral follicles. Female Fischer 344 rats (PND 28) were dosed daily (80 mg/kg/day VCD i.p.; 12 days in vivo), and PND 4 ovaries were cultured (VCD 20 or 30 μM; 8 days in vitro). Microarray analysis identified a subset of 14 genes whose expression was increased or decreased by VCD in both experiments (i.e., via both exposure routes). Particularly, the analysis showed that relative to controls, VCD did not affect mRNA expression of growth and differentiation factor 9 (Gdf9), whereas there were decreases in mRNA encoding bone morphogenic protein receptor 1a (Bmpr1a) and Kit. To confirm findings from microarray, the genes Gdf9, Bmpr1a, and Kit were further examined. When growth factors associated with these pathways were added to ovarian cultures during VCD exposure, GDF9 and BMP4 had no effect on VCD-induced ovotoxicity; however, KITL attenuated this follicle loss. Additionally, there was a decrease in Kit and an increase in Kitl expression (mRNA and protein) following VCD exposure, relative to control. These results support that VCD compromises KIT/KITL signaling, which is critical for follicular survival in primordial and primary follicles.
VCD-induced ovotoxicity in rats is mediated through compromised KIT/KITL signaling, which is critical for follicular survival
Kit; Kitl; ovary; ovotoxicity; preantral follicles
The goal of this study was to develop a modified fluorescent microsphere-based approach for measuring resting and hyperemic blood flows in individual mouse skeletal muscles. Absolute resting blood flow in the left gracilis posterior was 1.04±0.12 ml·min−1·g−1, while functional hyperemia following muscle activity was 5.94±1.33 ml·min−1·g−1. Measuring absolute blood flow requires sampling arterial blood that serves as a flow-rate and concentration reference to the fluorescent microsphere (FMS) content in the tissue-of-interest for calculating the flow value. Because sampling arterial blood can impair cardiovascular function in the mouse, we also modified our FMS approach to determine relative blood flows in the left gracilis posterior by using the contralateral muscle as our reference in blood flow calculations. Absolute and relative hyperemia measurements detect similar increases in blood flow — 521.93±216.76% and 555.24±213.82%, respectively. However, sampling arterial blood during absolute blood flow measurements significantly decreased mean arterial pressure from the beginning to the end of our experiments, from 102.7±2.18 to 75.5±9.71 mm Hg. This decrease was not seen when measuring relative blood flows. This approach provides critical advantages over contemporary blood flow measurement approaches by allowing blood flow measurements in small and non-superficial tissues.
Blood flow; Mouse; Fluorescent microspheres; Skeletal muscle; Hyperemia
The incorporation of statistical models that account for experimental variability provides a necessary framework for the interpretation of microarray data. A robust experimental design coupled with an analysis of variance (ANOVA) incorporating a model that accounts for known sources of experimental variability can significantly improve the determination of differences in gene expression and estimations of their significance.
To realize the full benefits of performing analysis of variance on microarray data we have developed CARMA, a microarray analysis platform that reads data files generated by most microarray image processing software packages, performs ANOVA using a user-defined linear model, and produces easily interpretable graphical and numeric results. No pre-processing of the data is required and user-specified parameters control most aspects of the analysis including statistical significance criterion. The software also performs location and intensity dependent lowess normalization, automatic outlier detection and removal, and accommodates missing data.
CARMA provides a clear quantitative and statistical characterization of each measured gene that can be used to assess marginally acceptable measures and improve confidence in the interpretation of microarray results. Overall, applying CARMA to microarray datasets incorporating repeated measures effectively reduces the number of gene incorrectly identified as differentially expressed and results in a more robust and reliable analysis.
Microvascular mural or perivascular cells are required for the stabilization and maturation of the remodeling vasculature. However, much less is known about their biology and function compared to large vessel smooth muscle cells. We have developed lines of multipotent mesenchymal cells from human embryonic stem cells (hES-MC); we hypothesize that these can function as perivascular mural cells. Here we show that the derived cells do not form teratomas in SCID mice and independently derived lines show similar patterns of gene expression by microarray analysis. When exposed to platelet-derived growth factor-BB, the platelet-derived growth factor receptor β is activated and hES-MC migrate in response to a gradient. We also show that in a serum-free medium, transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1) induces robust expression of multiple contractile proteins (α smooth muscle actin, smooth muscle myosin heavy chain, smooth muscle 22α, and calponin). TGFβ1 signaling is mediated through the TGFβR1/Alk5 pathway as demonstrated by inhibition of α smooth muscle actin expression by treatment of the Alk5-specific inhibitor SB525334 and stable retroviral expression of the Alk5 dominant negative (K232R). Coculture of human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) with hES-MC maintains network integrity compared to HUVEC alone in three-dimensional collagen I-fibronectin by paracrine signaling. Using high-resolution laser confocal microscopy, we show that hES-MC also make direct contact with HUVEC. This demonstrates that hESC-derived mesenchymal cells possess the molecular machinery expected in a perivascular progenitor cells and can play a functional role in stabilizing EC networks in in vitro three-dimensional culture.