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J Immunol. 1997 Apr 1;158(7):3408-16.

Endothelial cell tube formation depends on cadherin 5 and CD31 interactions with filamentous actin.

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Department of Dermatology I, University of Vienna Medical School, Austria.


Capillary tube formation represents a specialized endothelial cell function and is a prerequisite for the establishment of a continuous vessel lumen. Tube formation is thought to depend on cell-cell adhesion molecules, but whereas cadherins, Ig superfamily proteins, and integrins have been considered as potential candidates, the specific proteins subserving this function are unknown. We identified cadherin 5 and CD31 as two molecules critical for endothelial cell tube formation. Using human dermal microvascular endothelial cells or human umbilical vein endothelial cells for an in vitro capillary tube formation assay or, for comparison, an in vivo wound healing model in SCID mice, we show that tube formation in vivo and in vitro were prevented by adhesion-blocking mAbs to both proteins when used in conjunction but not by either mAb alone. In addition, both mAbs but not each individual mAb blocked cytoplasmic filamentous actin (F-actin) reorganization that resulted in cytoplasmic F-actin clumps similar to those induced by cytochalasin D, suggesting that cadherin 5 and CD31 tune tube formation in concert with F-actin. Indeed, cytochalasin D blocked capillary tube formation but colchicine did not, the latter inhibiting microtubule but not F-actin assembly. Using immunoprecipitation methods, we show for the first time that not only cadherin 5 but also a portion of CD31 connects to beta-catenin, which is part of the adherens junction complex known to be linked to F-actin. In conclusion, we provide evidence that cadherin 5, CD31, beta-catenin, and F-actin shape a functional complex that controls endothelial cell tube formation.

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