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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2002 Feb;13(1):55-60.

Vascular patterning by Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and ephrins.

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Vascular Development Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, 44 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PX, UK.


During vertebrate development, morphologically and functionally very different tissue types and organ systems need to be generated and organised in close coordination with each other. Blood vessels, which become critically required during early embryogenesis and remain indispensable throughout life, need to integrate into a great diversity of tissue types and adapt to both local and systemic requirements of the organism. Far from being randomly placed and uniformly shaped tubes, blood vessels form, with some degree of flexibility, a highly organised and precisely arranged network. Their differentiation, ultrastructure and physiology are well adapted to the requirements and functions of the surrounding tissues. How coordinated development and differentiation are achieved at a molecular level remains to be characterised. This review highlights the large family of Eph receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands, called ephrins, which, because of their versatile functions in many cell and tissue types and their molecular complexity, might well provide one example of a control system integrating blood vessel and tissue morphogenesis.

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