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Cell Tissue Res. 2003 Oct;314(1):5-14. Epub 2003 Sep 10.

VEGF and PlGF: two pleiotropic growth factors with distinct roles in development and homeostasis.

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The Center for Transgene Technology and Gene Therapy, Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology, University of Leuven, 3000, Leuven, Belgium.


Blood vessels are crucial for normal development and growth by providing oxygen and nutrients. As shown by genetic targeting studies in mice, zebrafish and Xenopus blood vessel formation (or angiogenesis) is a multistep process, which is highly dependent on angiogenic growth factors such as VEGF, the founding member of the VEGF family. VEGF binds to the tyrosine kinase receptors VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, and loss of VEGF or its receptors results in abnormal angiogenesis and lethality during development. In contrast, PlGF, another member of this family, binds only to VEGFR-1, and appears to be crucial exclusively for pathological angiogenesis in the adult. However, the expression of VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 on non-vascular cells suggests additional biological properties for these growth factors. Indeed, the VEGF family and its receptors determine development and homeostasis of many organs, including the respiratory, skeletal, hematopoietic, nervous, renal and reproductive system, independent of their vascular role. These new insights broaden the activity spectrum of these "angiogenic" growth factors, and may have therapeutic implications when using these growth factors for vascular and/or non-vascular purposes.

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