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Exp Cell Res. 2002 Nov 1;280(2):159-68.

Dynamics of vascular endothelial-cadherin and beta-catenin localization by vascular endothelial growth factor-induced angiogenesis in human umbilical vein cells.

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School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, United Kingdom.


The adherens junctional molecule, vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin), functions to maintain adherens junction stability and to suppress apoptosis of endothelial cells by forming a complex with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor 2 and members of the armadillo family of cytoplasmic proteins. In order to investigate the dynamics of the association of VE-cadherin with adherens junctions during the initial stages of angiogenesis, human umbilical cord endothelial cells (HUVECs) were stimulated with VEGF to undergo angiogenesis in type-I collagen three-dimensional culture. In confluent monolayers of HUVECs, VE-cadherin and its signaling partner, beta-catenin, as well as the paracellular transmembrane adhesion molecule platelet-endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM-1), were all present in regions of cell-cell contact. Within 3 h of stimulation of angiogenesis, VE-cadherin and beta-catenin were lost from these regions. In contrast, the distribution pattern of PECAM-1 did not alter. After 6 h the majority of endothelial cells had migrated to form a network of capillary cords with cell-cell contacts that contained all three molecules. By metabolic labeling of HUVECs it was found that de novo synthesis of VE-cadherin was not essential for the formation of new adherens junctions. Coimmunoprecipitation and immunoblotting experiments showed that the VE-cadherin and beta-catenin remained associated after they were lost from adherens junctions. Detergent extraction of cells with Triton X-100 indicted that the majority of VE-cadherin and beta-catenin was Triton soluble, indicating that they are only weakly associated with the actin-based cytoskeleton.

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