Vascular Cell Biology Unit

Gent, Belgium

Vascular Cell Biology Unit

Gent, Belgium
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Li S.,Harvard University | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Haigh K.,Ghent University | Haigh K.,Monash University | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Neuroscience | Year: 2013

Current models of brain development support the view that VEGF, a signaling protein secreted by neuronal cells, regulates angiogenesis and neuronal development. Here we demonstrate an autonomous and pivotal role for endothelial cell-derivedVEGFthat has far-reaching consequences for mouse brain development. Selective deletion of Vegf from endothelial cells resulted in impaired angiogenesis and marked perturbation of cortical cytoarchitecture. Abnormal cell clusters or heterotopias were detected in the marginal zone, and disorganization of cortical cells induced several malformations, including aberrant cortical lamination. Critical events during brain development-neuronal proliferation, differentiation, and migration were significantly affected. In addition, axonal tracts in the telencephalon were severely defective in the absence of endothelial VEGF. The unique roles of endothelial VEGF cannot be compensated by neuronal VEGF and underscores the high functional significance of endothelial VEGF for cerebral cortex development and from disease perspectives. © 2013 the authors.


Farhang Ghahremani M.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Radaelli E.,Mouse & Animal Pathology Laboratory | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Bartunkova S.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 4 more authors.
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.) | Year: 2014

Malignant transformation of the endothelium is rare, and hemangiosarcomas comprise only 1% of all sarcomas. For this reason and due to the lack of appropriate mouse models, the genetic mechanisms of malignant endothelial transformation are poorly understood. Here, we describe a hemangiosarcoma mouse model generated by deleting p53 specifically in the endothelial and hematopoietic lineages. This strategy led to a high incidence of hemangiosarcoma, with an average latency of 25 weeks. To study the in vivo roles of autocrine or endothelial cell autonomous VEGF signaling in the initiation and/or progression of hemangiosarcomas, we genetically deleted autocrine endothelial sources of VEGF in this mouse model. We found that loss of even a single conditional VEGF allele results in substantial rescue from endothelial cell transformation. These findings highlight the important role of threshold levels of autocrine VEGF signaling in endothelial malignancies and suggest a new approach for hemangiosarcoma treatment using targeted autocrine VEGF inhibition.


Ruiz de Almodovar C.,Catholic University of Leuven | Fabre P.J.,University of Montréal | Knevels E.,Catholic University of Leuven | Coulon C.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 18 more authors.
Neuron | Year: 2011

Growing axons are guided to their targets by attractive and repulsive cues. In the developing spinal cord, Netrin-1 and Shh guide commissural axons toward the midline. However, the combined inhibition of their activity in commissural axon turning assays does not completely abrogate turning toward floor plate tissue, suggesting that additional guidance cues are present. Here we show that the prototypic angiogenic factor VEGF is secreted by the floor plate and is a chemoattractant for commissural axons in vitro and in vivo. Inactivation of Vegf in the floor plate or of its receptor Flk1 in commissural neurons causes axon guidance defects, whereas Flk1 blockade inhibits turning of axons to VEGF in vitro. Similar to Shh and Netrin-1, VEGF-mediated commissural axon guidance requires the activity of Src family kinases. Our results identify VEGF and Flk1 as a novel ligand/receptor pair controlling commissural axon guidance. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Gembarska A.,Center for the Biology of Disease | Gembarska A.,Catholic University of Leuven | Luciani F.,Center for the Biology of Disease | Luciani F.,Catholic University of Leuven | And 29 more authors.
Nature Medicine | Year: 2012

The inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway, which often occurs through mutations in TP53 (encoding tumor protein 53) is a common step in human cancer. However, in melanoma-A highly chemotherapy-resistant disease-TP53 mutations are rare, raising the possibility that this cancer uses alternative ways to overcome p53-mediated tumor suppression. Here we show that Mdm4 p53 binding protein homolog (MDM4), a negative regulator of p53, is upregulated in a substantial proportion (∼65%) of stage I-IV human melanomas and that melanocyte-specific Mdm4 overexpression enhanced tumorigenesis in a mouse model of melanoma induced by the oncogene Nras. MDM4 promotes the survival of human metastatic melanoma by antagonizing p53 proapoptotic function. Notably, inhibition of the MDM4-p53 interaction restored p53 function in melanoma cells, resulting in increased sensitivity to cytotoxic chemotherapy and to inhibitors of the BRAF (V600E) oncogene. Our results identify MDM4 as a key determinant of impaired p53 function in human melanoma and designate MDM4 as a promising target for antimelanoma combination therapy. © 2012 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.


Farhang Ghahremani M.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Farhang Ghahremani M.,Ghent University | Goossens S.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Goossens S.,Ghent University | And 22 more authors.
Cell Death and Differentiation | Year: 2013

There is growing evidence that the p53 tumour suppressor downregulates vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression, although the underlying mechanisms remain unclear and controversial. Here we provide insights from in vitro experiments and in vivo xenotransplantation assays that highlight a dual role for p53 in regulating VEGF during hypoxia. Unexpectedly, and for the first time, we demonstrate that p53 rapidly induces VEGF transcription upon hypoxia exposure by binding, in an HIF-1α-dependent manner, to a highly conserved and functional p53-binding site within the VEGF promoter. However, during sustained hypoxia, p53 indirectly downregulates VEGF expression via the retinoblastoma (Rb) pathway in a p21-dependent manner, which is distinct from its role in cell-cycle regulation. Our findings have important implications for cancer therapy, especially for tumours that harbour wild-type TP53 and a dysfunctional Rb pathway. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


Nguyen A.H.T.,McGill University | Tremblay M.,McGill University | Haigh K.,Ghent University | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 8 more authors.
Human Molecular Genetics | Year: 2013

Loss of the tumor suppressor PTEN is a common occurrence in prostate cancer. This aberration leads to the ectopic activation of the PI3K-Akt pathway, which promotes tumor growth. Here, we show that the transcription factor Gata3 is progressively lost in Pten-deficient mouse prostate tumors as a result of both transcriptional down-regulation and increased proteasomal degradation. To determine the significance of this loss, we used conditional loss- and gain-of-function approaches to manipulate Gata3 expression levels in prostate tumors. Our results show that Gata3 inactivation in Pten-deficient prostates accelerates tumor invasion. Conversely, enforced expression of GATA3 in Pten-deficient tissues markedly delays tumor progression. In Pten-deficient prostatic ducts, enforced GATA3 prevented Akt activation, which correlated with the down-regulation of Pik3cg and Pik3c2a mRNAs, encoding respectively class I and II PI3K subunits. Remarkably, the majority of human prostate tumors similarly show loss of active GATA3 as they progress to the aggressive castrate-resistant stage. In addition, GATA3 expression levels in hormone-sensitive tumors holds predictive value for tumor recurrence. Together, these data establish Gata3 as an important regulator of prostate cancer progression.© 2013. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


Maes C.,Catholic University of Leuven | Araldi E.,Harvard University | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | Haigh K.,Ghent University | And 7 more authors.
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research | Year: 2012

Fetal growth plate cartilage is nonvascularized, and chondrocytes largely develop in hypoxic conditions. We previously found that mice lacking the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor HIF-1α in cartilage show massive death of centrally located, hypoxic chondrocytes. A similar phenotype was observed in mice with genetic ablation of either all or specifically the diffusible isoforms of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a prime angiogenic target of HIF-1α. Here, we assessed whether VEGF is a critical downstream component of the HIF-1α-dependent survival pathway in chondrocytes. We used a genetic approach to conditionally overexpress VEGF164 in chondrocytes lacking HIF-1α, evaluating potential rescuing effects. The effectiveness of the strategy was validated by showing that transgenic expression of VEGF164 in Col2-Cre;VEGF f/ f mice stimulated angiogenesis in the perichondrium, fully corrected the excessive hypoxia of VEGF-deficient chondrocytes, and completely prevented chondrocyte death. Yet, similarly crossed double-mutant embryos lacking HIF-1α and overexpressing VEGF164 in the growth plate cartilage still displayed a central cell death phenotype, albeit slightly delayed and less severe compared with mice exclusively lacking HIF-1α. Transgenic VEGF164 induced massive angiogenesis in the perichondrium, yet this only partially relieved the aberrant hypoxia present in HIF-1α-deficient cartilage and thereby likely inflicted only a partial rescue effect. In fact, excessive hypoxia and failure to upregulate phosphoglycerate-kinase 1 (PGK1), a key enzyme of anaerobic glycolytic metabolism, were among the earliest manifestations of HIF-1α deficiency in cartilaginous bone templates, and reduced PGK1 expression was irrespective of transgenic VEGF164. These findings suggest that HIF-1α activates VEGF-independent cell-autonomous mechanisms to sustain oxygen levels in the challenged avascular cartilage by reducing oxygen consumption. Hence, regulation of the metabolic pathways by HIF-1α and VEGF-dependent regulation of angiogenesis coordinately act to maintain physiological cartilage oxygenation. We conclude that VEGF and HIF-1α are critical preservers of chondrocyte survival by ensuring an adequate balance between availability and handling of oxygen in developing growth cartilage. Copyright © 2012 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.


Lucitti J.L.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | MacKey J.K.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Morrison J.C.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Haigh J.J.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 3 more authors.
Circulation Research | Year: 2012

RATIONALE: The density of native (preexisting) collaterals varies widely and is a significant determinant of variation in severity of stroke, myocardial infarction, and peripheral artery disease. However, little is known about mechanisms responsible for formation of the collateral circulation in healthy tissues. OBJECTIVE: We previously found that variation in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression causes differences in collateral density of newborn and adult mice. Herein, we sought to determine mechanisms of collaterogenesis in the embryo and the role of VEGF in this process. METHODS AND RESULTS: Pial collaterals begin forming between embryonic day 13.5 and 14.5 as sprout-like extensions from arterioles of existing cerebral artery trees. Global VEGF-A overexpressing mice (Vegf) formed more, and Vegf formed fewer, collaterals during embryogenesis, in association with differences in vascular patterning. Conditional global reduction of Vegf or Flk1 only during collaterogenesis significantly reduced collateral formation, but now without affecting vascular patterning, and the effects remained in adulthood. Endothelial-specific Vegf reduction had no effect on collaterogenesis. Endothelial-specific reduction of a disintegrin-and-metalloprotease-domain-10 (Adam10) and inhibition of γ-secretase increased collateral formation, consistent with their roles in VEGF-induced Notch1 activation and suppression of prosprouting signals. Endothelial-specific knockdown of Adam17 reduced collateral formation, consistent with its roles in endothelial cell migration and embryonic vascular stabilization, but not in activation of ligand-bound Notch1. These effects also remained in adulthood. CONCLUSIONS: Formation of pial collaterals occurs during a narrow developmental window via a sprouting angiogenesis-like mechanism, requires paracrine VEGF stimulation of fetal liver kinase 1-Notch signaling, and adult collateral number is dependent on embryonic collaterogenesis. © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.


Davies C.C.,Cancer Research UK Research Institute | Chakraborty A.,Cancer Research UK Research Institute | Cipriani F.,Cancer Research UK Research Institute | Haigh K.,Vascular Cell Biology Unit | And 4 more authors.
Nature Cell Biology | Year: 2010

The AP-1 transcription factor c-Jun is essential for cellular proliferation in many cell types, but the molecular link between growth factors and c-Jun activation has been enigmatic. In this study we identify a previously uncharacterized RING-domain-containing protein, RACO-1 (RING domain AP-1 co-activator-1), as a c-Jun co-activator that is regulated by growth factor signalling. RACO-1 interacted with c-Jun independently of amino-terminal phosphorylation, and was both necessary and sufficient for c-Jun/AP-1 activation. Growth factor-mediated stimulation of AP-1 was attributable to MEK/ERK-dependent stabilization of RACO-1 protein. Stimulation of the MEK/ERK pathway strongly promoted Lys 63-linked ubiquitylation of RACO-1, which antagonized Lys 48-linked degradative auto-ubiquitylation of the same Lys residues. RACO-1 depletion reduced cellular proliferation and decreased expression of several growth-associated AP-1 target genes, such as cdc2, cyclinD1 and hb-egf. Moreover, transgenic overexpression of RACO-1 augmented intestinal tumour formation triggered by aberrant Wnt signalling and cooperated with oncogenic Ras in colonic hyperproliferation. Thus RACO-1 is a co-activator that links c-Jun to growth factor signalling and is essential for AP-1 function in proliferation. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

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