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J Biol Chem. 2011 Apr 15;286(15):13612-25. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.216812. Epub 2011 Feb 14.

Engineered conformation-dependent VEGF peptide mimics are effective in inhibiting VEGF signaling pathways.

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Department of Microbiology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Angiogenesis, or formation of new blood vessels, is crucial to cancer tumor growth. Tumor growth, progression, and metastasis are critically influenced by the production of the pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Promising anti-angiogenic drugs are currently available; however, their susceptibilities to drug resistance and long term toxicity are serious impediments to their use, thus requiring the development of new therapeutic approaches for safe and effective angiogenic inhibitors. In this work, peptides were designed to mimic the VEGF-binding site to its receptor VEGFR-2. The VEGF conformational peptide mimic, VEGF-P3(CYC), included two artificial cysteine residues, which upon cyclization constrained the peptide in a loop native-like conformation to better mimic the anti-parallel structure of VEGF. The engineered cyclic VEGF mimic peptide demonstrated the highest affinity to VEGFR-2 by surface plasmon resonance assay. The VEGF peptide mimics were evaluated as inhibitors in several in vitro assays in which VEGF-dependent signaling pathways were observed. All VEGF mimics inhibited VEGFR-2 phosphorylation with VEGF-P3(CYC) showing the highest inhibitory effects when compared with unstructured peptides. Additionally, we show in several angiogenic in vitro assays that all the VEGF mimics inhibited endothelial cell proliferation, migration, and network formation with the conformational VEGF-P3 (CYC) being the best. The VEGF-P3(CYC) also caused a significant delay in tumor development in a transgenic model of VEGF(+/-)Neu2-5(+/-). These results indicate that the structure-based design is important for the development of this peptidomimetic and for its anti-angiogenic effects.

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