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Angiogenesis. 2007;10(1):35-45. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

An intimate interplay between precocious, migrating pericytes and endothelial cells governs human fetal brain angiogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Human Anatomy and Histology, University of Bari School of Medicine, Piazza Giulio Cesare, 11, Bari 70124, Italy.


In order to better understand the process of angiogenesis in the developing human brain, we have examined the spatial relationship and relative contributions of endothelial cells and pericytes, the two primary cell types involved in vessel growth, together with their relation with the vascular basement membrane. Pericytes were immunolocalized through use of the specific markers nerve/glial antigen 2 (NG2) proteoglycan, endosialin (CD248) and the platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFR-beta), while endothelial cells were identified by the pan-endothelial marker CD31 and the blood brain barrier (BBB)-specific markers claudin-5 and glucose transporter isoform 1 (GLUT-1). The quantitative analysis demonstrates that microvessels of the fetal human telencephalon are characterized by a continuous layer of activated/angiogenic NG2 pericytes, which tightly invest endothelial cells and participate in the earliest stages of vessel growth. Immunolabelling with anti-active matrix metalloproteinase-2 (aMMP-2) and anti-collagen type IV antibodies revealed that aMMP-2 producing endothelial cells and pericytes are both associated with the vascular basement membrane during vessel sprouting. Detailed localization of the two vascular cell types during angiogenesis suggests that growing microvessels of the human telencephalon are formed by a pericyte-driven angiogenic process in which the endothelial cells are preceded and guided by migrating pericytes during organization of the growing vessel wall.

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