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EMBO J. 2012 Apr 4;31(7):1692-703. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2012.21. Epub 2012 Feb 10.

Axl is essential for VEGF-A-dependent activation of PI3K/Akt.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Herein, we report that vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) engages the PI3K/Akt pathway by a previously unknown mechanism that involves three tyrosine kinases. Upon VEGF-A-dependent activation of VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2), and subsequent TSAd-mediated activation of Src family kinases (SFKs), SFKs engage the receptor tyrosine kinase Axl via its juxtamembrane domain to trigger ligand-independent autophosphorylation at a pair of YXXM motifs that promotes association with PI3K and activation of Akt. Other VEGF-A-mediated signalling pathways are independent of Axl. Interfering with Axl expression or function impairs VEGF-A- but not bFGF-dependent migration of endothelial cells. Similarly, Axl null mice respond poorly to VEGF-A-induced vascular permeability or angiogenesis, whereas other agonists induce a normal response. These results elucidate the mechanism by which VEGF-A activates PI3K/Akt, and identify previously unappreciated potential therapeutic targets of VEGF-A-driven processes.

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