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J Pathol. 2007 Jan;211(1):95-108.

Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in keloid pathogenesis modulate vascular endothelial growth factor expression and secretion.

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Department of Surgery, National University of Singapore, Singapore.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays an important role in angiogenesis during the wound healing process. As epithelial-mesenchymal interactions have been shown to regulate a plethora of genes in wound healing, we hypothesized that these interactions might have a role in modulating VEGF expression and angiogenesis. A two chamber co-culture model was used, wherein normal and keloid keratinocytes and fibroblasts were physically separated by membrane inserts while allowing cytokine diffusion. Cell lysates obtained from keratinocytes co-cultured with fibroblasts demonstrated increased expression of VEGF. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) showed significant increase in VEGF expression in co-culture conditioned media compared with controls. Additionally, the conditioned medium from keloid keratinocyte and fibroblast co-cultures increased proliferation and formation of complex three-dimensional capillary-like structures in human umbilical vein endothelial cells, emphasising the importance of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in the angiogenic process. Immunostaining of keloid tissue localized VEGF in the basal layer of the epidermis and also demonstrated higher blood vessel density than normal skin. Keloid tissue extract also demonstrated increased expression of VEGF compared with normal skin. It is likely that epidermal VEGF exerts significant paracrine control over the dynamics and expression profile of underlying dermal fibroblasts. Addition of the inhibitors WP631, mitoxantrone, and Rapamycin to keloid keratinocyte and fibroblast co-cultures, downregulated secreted VEGF expression in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting therapeutic potential for these compounds in the treatment of keloid scars.

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