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Br J Cancer. 2003 May 6;88(9):1453-61.

Mechanism of IL-12 mediated alterations in tumour blood vessel morphology: analysis using whole-tissue mounts.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


New blood vessel formation within tumours is a critical feature for tumour growth. A major limitation in understanding this complex process has been the inability to visualise and analyse vessel formation. Here, we report on the development of a whole-tissue mount technique that allows visualisation of vessel structure. Mice expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) made it possible to easily see GFP(+) vessels within non-GFP-expressing B16 melanoma tumours. The small fragments of tumour used in this technique were also effectively stained with fluorescent probe-conjugated antibodies, allowing characterisation of the vessels based on surface marker phenotype. The vessels within tumour tissue were much more irregular and tortuous compared to those within surrounding normal muscle. B16 tumours stably transfected with the genes for IL-12 were used to assess the effects of this cytokine on tumour growth and vessel formation. The IL-12-expressing tumours grew more slowly and had much smaller blood vessels than the large, webbed vessels characteristic of the parental tumours, effects that were dependent on interferon gamma (IFN-gamma). Vessels in the parental tumours were found to express VEGFR-3, the receptor for VEGF-C and VEGF-D. Expression of this receptor by the endothelial cells of the blood vessels was lost in the cytokine expressing tumours, thus suggesting a mechanism for the antiangiogenic effects of IL-12. The combination of the whole mount technique and the GFP transgenic mice provides a powerful method for visualising tumour vasculature and characterising the effects of agents such as cytokines.

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