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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2004 Dec;287(6):H2739-45.

Stretch induces upregulation of key tyrosine kinase receptors in microvascular endothelial cells.

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Dept. of Anatomy and Cell Biology, 1-402, Bowen Science Bldg., Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


We previously demonstrated that cyclic stretch of cardiac myocytes activates paracrine signaling via vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) leading to angiogenesis. The present study tested the hypothesis that cyclic stretch upregulates tyrosine kinase receptors in rat coronary microvascular endothelial cells (RCMEC) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). VEGF receptor-2 (Flk-1) protein levels increased in HUVEC and RCMEC in a time-dependent manner, but the increase occurred much earlier in RCMEC than in HUVEC. The enhancement of Flk-1 protein level was not inhibited by addition of VEGF neutralizing antibodies, indicating that VEGF is not involved in stretch-induced Flk-1 expression. VEGF receptor-1 (Flt-1) protein and mRNA were not changed by stretch. However, Tie-2 and Tie-1 protein levels increased in RCMEC. Angiopoietin-1 and -2, the ligands for Tie-2, increased in cardiac myocytes subjected to cyclic stretch but were not affected by stretch in endothelial cells (EC). Stretch or incubation of RCMEC with VEGF increased cell proliferation moderately, whereas stretch + VEGF had an additive effect on proliferation. Mechanical stretch induces upregulation of the key tyrosine kinase receptors Flk-1, Tie-2, and Tie-1 in vascular EC, which underlies the increase in sensitivity of EC to growth factors and, therefore, facilitates angiogenesis. These in vitro findings support the concept that stretch of cardiac myocytes and EC plays a key role in coronary angiogenesis.

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