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Development. 2015 Jul 1;142(13):2364-74. doi: 10.1242/dev.121913. Epub 2015 May 22.

The matricellular protein CCN1 controls retinal angiogenesis by targeting VEGF, Src homology 2 domain phosphatase-1 and Notch signaling.

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State University of New York (SUNY) Eye Institute and Department of Cell Biology, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60607, USA.
Departments of Ophthalmology and Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.
State University of New York (SUNY) Eye Institute and Department of Cell Biology, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA Department of Ophthalmology, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA


Physiological angiogenesis depends on the highly coordinated actions of multiple angiogenic regulators. CCN1 is a secreted cysteine-rich and integrin-binding matricellular protein required for proper cardiovascular development. However, our understanding of the cellular origins and activities of this molecule is incomplete. Here, we show that CCN1 is predominantly expressed in angiogenic endothelial cells (ECs) at the leading front of actively growing vessels in the mouse retina. Endothelial deletion of CCN1 in mice using a Cre-Lox system is associated with EC hyperplasia, loss of pericyte coverage and formation of dense retinal vascular networks lacking the normal hierarchical arrangement of arterioles, capillaries and venules. CCN1 is a product of an immediate-early gene that is transcriptionally induced in ECs in response to stimulation by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). We found that CCN1 activity is integrated with VEGF receptor 2 (VEGF-R2) activation and downstream signaling pathways required for tubular network formation. CCN1-integrin binding increased the expression of and association between Src homology 2 domain-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase-1 (SHP-1) and VEGF-R2, which leads to rapid dephosphorylation of VEGF-R2 tyrosine, thus preventing EC hyperproliferation. Predictably, CCN1 further brings receptors/signaling molecules into proximity that are otherwise spatially separated. Furthermore, CCN1 induces integrin-dependent Notch activation in cultured ECs, and its targeted gene inactivation in vivo alters Notch-dependent vascular specification and remodeling, suggesting that functional levels of Notch signaling requires CCN1 activity. These data highlight novel functions of CCN1 as a naturally optimized molecule, fine-controlling key processes in physiological angiogenesis and safeguarding against aberrant angiogenic responses.


CCN1; Knockout mouse; Matricellular; Retinal angiogenesis; VEGF

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