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Cancer Res. 2018 May 1;78(9):2370-2382. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-2728. Epub 2018 Feb 15.

Single-Cell Transcriptome Analyses Reveal Endothelial Cell Heterogeneity in Tumors and Changes following Antiangiogenic Treatment.

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Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., Tarrytown, New York.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., Tarrytown, New York.
Contributed equally


Angiogenesis involves dynamic interactions between specialized endothelial tip and stalk cells that are believed to be regulated in part by VEGF and Dll4-Notch signaling. However, our understanding of this process is hampered by limited knowledge of the heterogeneity of endothelial cells and the role of different signaling pathways in specifying endothelial phenotypes. Here, we characterized by single-cell transcriptomics the heterogeneity of mouse endothelial cells and other stromal cells during active angiogenesis in xenograft tumors as well as from adult normal heart, following pharmacologic inhibition of VEGF and Dll4-Notch signaling. We classified tumor endothelial cells into three subpopulations that appeared to correspond with tip-like, transition, and stalk-like cells. Previously identified markers for tip and stalk cells were confirmed and several novel ones discovered. Blockade of VEGF rapidly inhibited cell-cycle genes and strongly reduced the proportion of endothelial tip cells in tumors. In contrast, blockade of Dll4 promoted endothelial proliferation as well as tip cell markers; blockade of both pathways inhibited endothelial proliferation but preserved some tip cells. We also phenotypically classified other tumor stromal cells and found that tumor-associated fibroblasts responded to antiangiogenic drug treatments by upregulating hypoxia-associated genes and producing secreted factors involved in angiogenesis. Overall, our findings better define the heterogeneity of tumor endothelial and other stromal cells and reveal the roles of VEGF and Dll4-Notch in specifying tumor endothelial phenotype, highlighting the response of stromal cells to antiangiogenic therapies.Significance: These findings provide a framework for defining subpopulations of endothelial cells and tumor-associated fibroblasts and their rapid changes in gene expression following antiangiogenic treatment. Cancer Res; 78(9); 2370-82. ©2018 AACR.

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