Vascular branching morphogenesis is activated and maintained by several signaling pathways. Among them, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) signaling is largely presented in arteries, and VEGFR3 signaling is in veins and capillaries. Recent reports have documented that Snail, a well-known epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition protein, is expressed in endothelial cells, where it regulates sprouting angiogenesis and embryonic vascular development. Here, we identified Snail as a regulator of VEGFR3 expression during capillary branching morphogenesis. Snail was dramatically upregulated in sprouting vessels in the developing retinal vasculature, including the leading-edged vessels and vertical sprouting vessels for capillary extension toward the deep retina. Results from in vitro functional studies demonstrate that Snail expression colocalized with VEGFR3 and upregulated VEGFR3 mRNA by directly binding to the VEGFR3 promoter via cooperating with early growth response protein-1. Snail knockdown in postnatal mice attenuated the formation of the deep capillary plexus, not only by impairing vertical sprouting vessels but also by downregulating VEGFR3 expression. Collectively, these data suggest that the Snail-VEGFR3 axis controls capillary extension, especially in vessels expressing VEGFR2 at low levels.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research