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BJU Int. 2006 Jul;98(1):217-25.

Vascular endothelial growth factor stimulates embryonic urinary bladder development in organ culture.

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Nephro-Urology Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK.



To determine whether vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) and its receptors are expressed during bladder development in mice when capillaries are forming, and whether exogenous VEGF might enhance the growth of endothelia and other types of bladder cells, using an embryonic organ-culture model.


Whole bladders from wild-type mice, at embryonic day (E) 14, were grown in serum-free organ culture in an air/5% CO2 atmosphere; some cultures were supplemented with VEGF and/or with VEGF receptor 1/Fc chimera (VEGFR1/Fc), which blocks VEGF bioactivity. Organs were harvested after 6 days and the expression of VEGF and related molecules assessed using immunohistochemistry.


VEGF, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2 positive cells were immunodetected in E14 and E18 bladders. Exogenous VEGF increased whole-organ growth, as assessed by explant areas, total cell numbers, DNA and protein content; proliferation was enhanced, and apoptosis decreased, in urothelium and surrounding tissues. VEGF also increased the proportions of cells expressing endothelial (CD31) and smooth muscle (alpha smooth muscle actin) markers. VEGFR1/Fc blocked the growth-enhancing effects of exogenous VEGF.


In organ culture, exogenous VEGF not only stimulated embryonic bladder endothelial cells but also strikingly enhanced the growth of the whole organ. Whether the effects of VEGF on diverse bladder cell populations are direct or indirect requires further investigation. The finding that VEGF protein is present in embryonic bladders in vivo raises the possibility that it has similar actions during normal development. The results also illuminate the pathobiology of certain bladder diseases in which VEGF levels have been shown to be increased.

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