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Exp Cell Res. 2009 Feb 1;315(3):396-410. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2008.10.040. Epub 2008 Nov 6.

Nonlinear optical microscopy reveals invading endothelial cells anisotropically alter three-dimensional collagen matrices.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA.


The interactions between endothelial cells (ECs) and the extracellular matrix (ECM) are fundamental in mediating various steps of angiogenesis, including cell adhesion, migration and sprout formation. Here, we used a noninvasive and non-destructive nonlinear optical microscopy (NLOM) technique to optically image endothelial sprouting morphogenesis in three-dimensional (3D) collagen matrices. We simultaneously captured signals from collagen fibers and endothelial cells using second harmonic generation (SHG) and two-photon excited fluorescence (TPF), respectively. Dynamic 3D imaging revealed EC interactions with collagen fibers along with quantifiable alterations in collagen matrix density elicited by EC movement through and morphogenesis within the matrix. Specifically, we observed increased collagen density in the area between bifurcation points of sprouting structures and anisotropic increases in collagen density around the perimeter of lumenal structures, but not advancing sprout tips. Proteinase inhibition studies revealed membrane-associated matrix metalloproteinase were utilized for sprout advancement and lumen expansion. Rho-associated kinase (p160ROCK) inhibition demonstrated that the generation of cell tension increased collagen matrix alterations. This study followed sprouting ECs within a 3D matrix and revealed that the advancing structures recognize and significantly alter their extracellular environment at the periphery of lumens as they progress.

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