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Dev Biol. 2001 Sep 15;237(2):398-409.

Arterial identity of endothelial cells is controlled by local cues.

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Anatomisches Institut II der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Albertstrasse 17, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


The ephrins and their Eph receptors comprise the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Studies on mice have revealed an important function of ephrin-B2 and Eph-B4 for the development of the arterial and venous vasculature, respectively, but the mechanisms regulating their expression have not been studied yet. We have cloned a chick ephrin-B2 cDNA probe. Expression was observed in endothelial cells of extra- and intraembryonic arteries and arterioles in all embryos studied from day 2 (stage 10 HH, before perfusion of the vessels) to day 16. Additionally, expression was found in the somites and neural tube in early stages, and later also in the smooth muscle cells of the aorta, parts of the Müllerian duct, dosal neural tube, and joints of the limbs. We isolated endothelial cells from the internal carotid artery and the vena cava of 14-day-old quail embryos and grafted them separately into day-3 chick embryos. Reincubation was performed until day 6 and the quail endothelial cells were identified with the QH1 antibody. The grafted arterial and venous endothelial cells expressed ephrin-B2 when they integrated into the lining of arteries. Cells that were not integrated into vessels, or into vessels other than arteries, were ephrin-B2-negative. The studies show that the expression of the arterial marker ephrin-B2 is controlled by local cues in arterial vessels of older embryos. Physical forces or the media smooth muscle cells may be involved in this process.

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