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Circ Res. 2009 Feb 27;104(4):428-41. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.108.188144.

Guidance of vascular development: lessons from the nervous system.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, U833 and Collège de France, Paris, France.


The vascular system of vertebrates consists of an organized, branched network of arteries, veins, and capillaries that penetrates all the tissues of the body. One of the most striking features of the vascular system is that its branching pattern is highly stereotyped, with major and secondary branches forming at specific sites and developing highly conserved organ-specific vascular patterns. The factors controlling vascular patterning are not yet completely understood. Recent studies have highlighted the anatomic and structural similarities between blood vessels and nerves. The 2 networks are often aligned, with nerve fibers and blood vessels following parallel routes. Furthermore, both systems require precise control over their guidance and growth. Several molecules with attractive and repulsive properties have been found to modulate the proper guidance of both nerves and blood vessels. These include the Semaphorins, the Slits, and the Netrins and their receptors. In this review, we describe the molecular mechanisms by which blood vessels and axons achieve proper path finding and the molecular cues that are involved in their guidance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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