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Circ Res. 2013 Apr 26;112(9):1272-87. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.113.300506.

Regulation of endothelial cell differentiation and specification.

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Interdepartmental Program in Developmental Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.


The circulatory system is the first organ system to develop in the vertebrate embryo and is critical throughout gestation for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to, as well as removal of metabolic waste products from, growing tissues. Endothelial cells, which constitute the luminal layer of all blood and lymphatic vessels, emerge de novo from the mesoderm in a process known as vasculogenesis. The vascular plexus that is initially formed is then remodeled and refined via proliferation, migration, and sprouting of endothelial cells to form new vessels from preexisting ones during angiogenesis. Mural cells are also recruited by endothelial cells to form the surrounding vessel wall. During this vascular remodeling process, primordial endothelial cells are specialized to acquire arterial, venous, and blood-forming hemogenic phenotypes and functions. A subset of venous endothelium is also specialized to become lymphatic endothelium later in development. The specialization of all endothelial cell subtypes requires extrinsic signals and intrinsic regulatory events, which will be discussed in this review.

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