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Sci Transl Med. 2012 Jan 18;4(117):117ra8. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002670.

Notch4 normalization reduces blood vessel size in arteriovenous malformations.

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Laboratory for Accelerated Vascular Research, Division of Vascular Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Abnormally enlarged blood vessels underlie many life-threatening disorders including arteriovenous (AV) malformations (AVMs). The core defect in AVMs is high-flow AV shunts, which connect arteries directly to veins, "stealing" blood from capillaries. Here, we studied mouse brain AV shunts caused by up-regulation of Notch signaling in endothelial cells (ECs) through transgenic expression of constitutively active Notch4 (Notch4*). Using four-dimensional two-photon imaging through a cranial window, we found that normalizing Notch signaling by repressing Notch4* expression converted large-caliber, high-flow AV shunts to capillary-like vessels. The structural regression of the high-flow AV shunts returned blood to capillaries, thus reversing tissue hypoxia. This regression was initiated by vessel narrowing without the loss of ECs and required restoration of EphB4 receptor expression by venous ECs. Normalization of Notch signaling resulting in regression of high-flow AV shunts, and a return to normal blood flow suggests that targeting the Notch pathway may be useful therapeutically for treating diseases such as AVMs.

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