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Dev Biol. 2003 May 1;257(1):205-19.

Stem cell-derived endothelial cells/progenitors migrate and pattern in the embryo using the VEGF signaling pathway.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Endothelial precursor cells respond to molecular cues to migrate and assemble into embryonic blood vessels, but the signaling pathways involved in vascular patterning are not well understood. We recently showed that avian vascular patterning cues are recognized by mammalian angioblasts derived from somitic mesoderm through analysis of mouse-avian chimeras. To determine whether stem cell-derived endothelial cells/progenitors also recognize global patterning signals, murine ES cell-derived embryoid bodies (EBs) were grafted into avian hosts. ES cell-derived murine endothelial cells/progenitors migrated extensively and colonized the appropriate host vascular beds. They also formed mosaic vessels with avian endothelial cells. Unlike somite derived-endothelial cells, ES cell-derived endothelial cells/progenitors migrated across the host embryonic midline to the contralateral side. To determine the role of VEGF signaling in embryonic vascular patterning, EBs mutant for a VEGF receptor (flk-1(-/-)) or a signal (VEGF-A(-/-)) were grafted into quail hosts. Flk-1(-/-) EB grafts produced only rare endothelial cells that did not migrate or assemble into vessels. In contrast, VEGF-A(-/-) EB grafts produced endothelial cells that resembled wild-type and colonized host vascular beds, suggesting that host-derived signals can partially rescue mutant graft vascular patterning. VEGF-A(-/-) graft endothelial cells/progenitors crossed the host midline with much lower frequency than wild-type EB grafts, indicating that graft-derived VEGF compromised the midline barrier when present. Thus, ES cell-derived endothelial cells/progenitors respond appropriately to global vascular patterning cues, and they require the VEGF signaling pathway to pattern properly. Moreover, EB-avian chimeras provide an efficient way to screen mutations for vascular patterning defects.

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