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Cytokine. 2006 Dec;36(5-6):267-75. Epub 2007 Mar 26.

ErbB receptors in fetal endothelium--a potential linkage point for inflammation-associated neonatal disorders.

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Department of Pediatrics, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str.1, 30623 Hannover, Germany.



ErbB receptors and their ligands play crucial roles in development. During late gestation, they might also be involved in the pathogenesis of prematurity-associated disorders. ErbB receptor dimerization leads to a diversity of biologic signals. We studied the expression and localization patterns of erbB receptors in the developing human umbilical endothelial cell system. It is still unclear, whether expression patterns might be developmentally regulated and depend on the cell type studied.


Primary human umbilical venous endothelial cells (HUVEC) and arterial endothelial cells (HUAEC) were isolated between 24 and 42 weeks of gestation and used for immunoprecipitation, Western blotting, and confocal microscopy.


All four erbB receptors were present in HUVEC and HUAEC. Expression patterns were similar for cell types at gestational ages examined. ErbB4 always co-precipitated with erbB1 in both cell types independent of the gestational age. Confocal microscopy revealed that all erbB receptors were localized in the nucleus, erbB1 and erbB3 in the nucleoli, while erbB2 and erbB4 spared the nucleolar region. All receptors showed a tendency to co-localize. Growth factor stimulation altered localization patterns. Cellular subfractionation experiments for erbB4 largely confirmed microscopy results. Pretreatment with lipopolysaccharide enhanced this nuclear localization of erbB4, particularly of its intracellular domain.


All erbB receptors are present in both HUVEC and HUAEC at all gestational ages tested. ErbB receptor expression patterns were independent of the developmental stage of the endothelial cell, at least in the third trimester. We speculate that endothelial erbB receptors might play a role in normal development in mid and late gestation. We also speculate that these findings, together with the known involvement of erbB receptors in development, inflammation, and angiogenesis, will open new avenues for erbB receptor-related research in the pathogenesis of fetal and neonatal inflammation-associated disorders.

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