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Exp Cell Res. 1998 Feb 1;238(2):324-34.

VE-Cadherin mediates endothelial cell capillary tube formation in fibrin and collagen gels.

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Department of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Various cell adhesion molecules mediate the diverse functions of the vascular endothelium, such as cell adhesion, neutrophil migration, and angiogenesis. In order to identify cell adhesion molecules important for angiogenesis, we used an in vitro model (Chalupowicz, Chowdhury, Bach, Barsigian, and Martinez, J. Cell Biol. 130, 207-215, 1995) in which human umbilical vein endothelial cell monolayers are induced to form capillary-like tubes when a second gel, composed of either fibrin or collagen, is formed overlying the apical surface. In the present investigation, we observed that a monoclonal antibody directed against the first extracellular domain of human vascular endothelial cadherin (VE-cadherin, cadherin 5) inhibited the formation of capillary tubes formed between either fibrin or collagen gels. Moreover, when added to preformed capillary tubes, this antibody disrupted the capillary network. In contrast, monoclonal antibodies directed against the extracellular domain of N-cadherin, the alphavbeta3 integrin, and PECAM-1 failed to inhibit capillary tube formation. During capillary tube formation, Western blot and RT-PCR analysis revealed no marked change in VE-cadherin expression. Immunocytochemical studies demonstrated that VE-cadherin was concentrated at intercellular junctions in multicellular capillary tubes. Thus, VE-cadherin plays a specific role in fibrin-induced or collagen-induced capillary tube formation and is localized at areas of intercellular contact where it functions to maintain the tubular architecture. Moreover, its function at tubular intercellular junctions is distinct from that at intercellular junctions present in confluent monolayers, since only the former was inhibited by monoclonal antibodies.

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