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Cell Commun Adhes. 2001;8(1):1-13.

Rac regulates vascular endothelial growth factor stimulated motility.

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  • 1Renal Division, Barnes-Jewish Hospital North, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


During angiogenesis endothelial cells migrate towards a chemotactic stimulus. Understanding the mechanism of endothelial cell migration is critical to the therapeutic manipulation of angiogenesis and ultimately cancer prevention. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent chemotactic stimulus of endothelial cells during angiogenesis. The endothelial cell signal transduction pathway of VEGF represents a potential target for cancer therapy, but the mechanisms of post-receptor signal transduction including the roles of rho family GTPases in regulating the cytoskeletal effects of VEGF in endothelial cells are not understood. Here we analyze the mechanisms of cell migration in the mouse brain endothelial cell line (bEND3). Stable transfectants containing a tetracycline repressible expression vector were used to induce expression of Rac mutants. Endothelial cell haptotaxis was stimulated by constitutively active V12Rac on collagen and vitronectin coated supports, and chemotaxis was further stimulated by VEGF. Osteopontin coated supports were the most stimulatory to bEND3 haptotaxis, but VEGF was not effective in further increasing migration on osteopontin coated supports. Haptotaxis on support coated with collagen, vitronectin, and to a lesser degree osteopontin was inhibited by N17 Rac. N17 Rac expression blocked stimulation of endothelial cell chemotaxis by VEGF. As part of the chemotactic stimulation, VEGF caused a loss of actin organization at areas of cell-cell contact and increased stress fiber expression in endothelial cells which were directed towards pores in the transwell membrane. N17 Rac prevented the stimulation of cell-cell contact disruption and the stress fiber stimulation by VEGF. These data demonstrate two pathways of regulating endothelial cell motility, one in which Rac is activated by matrix/integrin stimulation and is a crucial modulator of endothelial cell haptotaxis. The other pathway, in the presence of osteopontin, is Rac independent. VEGF stimulated chemotaxis, is critically dependent on Rac activation. Osteopontin was a potent matrix activator of motility, and perhaps one explanation for the absence of a VEGF plus osteopontin effect is that osteopontin stimulated motility was inhibitory to the Rac pathway.

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