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Exp Cell Res. 1994 Dec;215(2):310-8.

Induction of endothelial cell differentiation in vitro by fibroblast-derived soluble factors.

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Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, Maryland 21224.


Recent studies have suggested that fibroblasts, widely distributed mesenchymal cells, not only function to sustain various organs and tissues as stroma cells but also act directly to regulate adjacent cell behavior including migration, proliferation, and differentiation. Since fibroproliferative diseases and lesions (fibroplasia) are accompanied by new capillary growth (angiogenesis), we hypothesized that fibroblasts may have direct effects on endothelial cell behavior, independent of the elaboration of extracellular matrix, that are relevant to complex process of angiogenesis. To test this hypothesis, bovine aortic endothelial cells were cocultured in collagen gels with human skin fibroblasts. This coculture system caused the endothelial cells to become spindle shaped and to organize into a capillary-like structure within the collagen gels. We found that fibroblast-conditioned medium (FCM) also induced endothelial cells initially to elongate and subsequently to organize into a capillary-like structure within collagen gels. While FCM had no significant effect on endothelial cell DNA synthesis, the soluble factor(s) in FCM increased endothelial cell motility in an in vitro wound assay and in a Boyden chamber assay. The chemoattractant(s) in FCM was alkaline (pH 9.0)--and acid (pH 3.0)--stable, relatively heat stable (stable at 60 degrees for 30 min, unstable at 98 degrees C for 3 min), dithiothreitol (DTT)-sensitive, and bound to an anionic exchange resin (DEAE-cellulose). Another factor(s) stimulated endothelial cell reorganization into capillary-like structure both within a collagen gel and on a reconstituted basement membrane matrix, Matrigel. This factor(s) was alkaline (pH 9.0)- and acid (pH 3.0)--stable, heat (98 degrees C for 3 min)-stable, and DTT-sensitive and bound an anionic exchange resin (DEAE-cellulose). These in vitro results suggest that fibroblasts secrete soluble factors that can influence endothelial cell behaviors relevant to the angiogenesis process with possible implications for vascularization in fibroproliferative conditions.

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