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Am J Pathol. 2002 Apr;160(4):1381-92.

Activation of the tie2 receptor by angiopoietin-1 enhances tumor vessel maturation and impairs squamous cell carcinoma growth.

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Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Department of Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown 02129, USA.


The distinct roles of angiopoietin (Ang)-1 and Ang2, counteracting ligands for the endothelium-specific Tie2 receptor, in tumor development and progression have remained poorly understood. We investigated the expression of Ang1 and Ang2 during multistep mouse skin carcinogenesis and in human squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) xenografts. Expression of Ang2, but not of Ang1, was up-regulated in angiogenic tumor vessels already in early stages of skin carcinogenesis and was also strongly increased in SCCs. Stable overexpression of Ang1 in human A431 SCCs resulted in a more than 70% inhibition of tumor growth, associated with enhanced Tie2 phosphorylation levels, as compared with low levels in control transfected tumors. No major changes in the vascular density, vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA and protein expression, and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 phosphorylation levels were observed in Ang1-expressing tumors. However, the fraction of tumor blood vessels with coverage by alpha-smooth muscle actin-positive periendothelial cells was significantly increased, indicative of an increased vascular maturation status. These findings identify an inhibitory role of Ang1/Tie2 receptor-mediated vessel maturation in SCC growth and suggest that up-regulation of its antagonist, Ang2, during early-stage epithelial tumorigenesis contributes to the angiogenic switch by counteracting specific vessel-stabilizing effects of Ang1.

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