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J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 14;278(7):5277-84. Epub 2002 Nov 20.

Vascular endothelial growth factor modulates the transendothelial migration of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells through regulation of brain microvascular endothelial cell permeability.

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  • 1Division of Experimental Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), also known as vascular permeability factor (VPF), has been shown to increase potently the permeability of endothelium and is highly expressed in breast cancer cells. In this study, we investigated the role of VEGF/VPF in breast cancer metastasis to the brain. Very little is known about the role of endothelial integrity in the extravasation of breast cancer cells to the brain. We hypothesized that VEGF/VPF, having potent vascular permeability activity, may support tumor cell penetration across blood vessels by inducing vascular leakage. To examine this role of VEGF/VPF, we used a Transwell culture system of the human brain microvascular endothelial cell (HBMEC) monolayer as an in vitro model for the blood vessels. We observed that VEGF/VPF significantly increased the penetration of the highly metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells across the HBMEC monolayer. We found that the increased transendothelial migration (TM) of MDA-MB-231 cells resulted from the increased adhesion of tumor cells onto the HBMEC monolayer. These effects (TM and adhesion of tumor cells) were inhibited by the pre-treatment of the HBMEC monolayer with the VEGF/VPF receptor (KDR/Flk-1) inhibitor, SU-1498, and the calcium chelator 1,2-bis(O-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (acetoxymethyl)ester. These treatments of the HBMEC monolayer also inhibited VEGF/VPF-induced permeability and the cytoskeletal rearrangement of the monolayer. These data suggest that VEGF/VPF can modulate the TM of tumor cells by regulating the integrity of the HBMEC monolayer. Taken together, these findings indicate that VEGF/VPF might contribute to breast cancer metastasis by enhancing the TM of tumor cells through the down-regulation of endothelial integrity.

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