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BMC Dev Biol. 2011 Mar 14;11:18. doi: 10.1186/1471-213X-11-18.

Serum response factor is required for cell contact maintenance but dispensable for proliferation in visceral yolk sac endothelium.

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Department of Biochemistry, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, USA.



Endothelial-specific knockout of the transcription factor serum response factor (SRF) results in embryonic lethality by mid-gestation. The associated phenotype exhibits vascular failure in embryos as well as visceral yolk sac (VYS) tissues. Previous data suggest that this vascular failure is caused by alterations in cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts. In the current study, we sought to more carefully address the role of SRF in endothelial function and cell contact interactions in VYS tissues.


Tie2-Cre recombinase-mediated knockout of SRF expression resulted in loss of detectable SRF from VYS mesoderm by E12.5. This loss was accompanied by decreased expression of smooth muscle alpha-actin as well as vascular endothelial cadherin and claudin 5, endothelial-specific components of adherens and tight junctions, respectively. Focal adhesion (FA) integrins alpha5 and beta1 were largely unchanged in contrast to loss of the FA-associated molecule vinculin. The integrin binding partner fibronectin-1 was also profoundly decreased in the extracellular matrix, indicating another aspect of impaired adhesive function and integrin signaling. Additionally, cells in SRF-null VYS mesoderm failed to reduce proliferation, suggesting not only that integrin-mediated contact inhibition is impaired but also that SRF protein is not required for proliferation in these cells.


Our data support a model in which SRF is critical in maintaining functional cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion in endothelial cells. Furthermore, we provide evidence that supports a model in which loss of SRF protein results in a sustained proliferation defect due in part to failed integrin signaling.

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