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J Cell Biochem. 1996 Feb;60(2):185-97.

Contraction of fibrillar type I collagen by endothelial cells: a study in vitro.

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Department of Biological Structure, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.


The formation of microvascular sprouts during angiogenesis requires that endothelial cells move through an extracellular matrix. Endothelial cells that migrate in vitro generate forces of traction that compress (i.e., contract) and reorganize vicinial extracellular matrix, a process that might be important for angiogenic invasion and morphogenesis in vivo. To study potential relationships between traction and angiogenesis, we have measured the contraction of fibrillar type I collagen gels by endothelial cells in vitro. We found that the capacity of bovine aortic endothelial (BAE) cells to remodel type I collagen was similar to that of human dermal fibroblasts--a cell type that generates high levels of traction. Contraction of collagen by BAE cells was stimulated by fetal bovine serum, human plasma-derived serum, bovine serum albumin, and the angiogenic factors phorbol myristate acetate and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). In contrast, fibronectin and immunoglobulin from bovine serum, several nonserum proteins, and polyvinyl pyrrolidone (a nonproteinaceous substitute for albumin in artificial plasma) were not stimulatory. Contraction of collagen by BAE cells was diminished by an inhibitor of metalloproteinases (1,10-phenanthroline) at concentrations that were not obviously cytotoxic. Zymography of proteins secreted by BAE cells that had contracted collagen gels revealed matrix metalloproteinase 2. Subconfluent BAE cells that were migratory and proliferating were more effective contractors of collagen than were quiescent, confluent cells of the same strain. Moreover, bovine capillary endothelial cells contracted collagen gels to a greater degree than was seen with BAE cells. Collectively, our observations indicate that traction-driven reorganization of fibrillar type I collagen by endothelial cells is sensitive to different mediators, some of which, e.g., bFGF, are known regulators of angiogenesis in vivo.

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