Transgenic overexpression of vascular endothelial growth factor-B isoforms by endothelial cells potentiates postnatal vessel growth in vivo and in vitro.
Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) play significant roles in endothelial growth, survival, and function, and their potential use as therapeutic agents to promote the revascularization of ischemic tissues in being avidly explored. VEGF-A has received most attention, as it is a potent stimulator of vascular growth. Results in clinical trials of VEGF-A as a therapeutic agent have fallen short of high expectations because of serious edematous side effects caused by its activity in promoting vascular permeability. VEGF-B, a related factor, binds some of the VEGF-A receptors but not to VEGF receptor 2, which is implicated in the vascular permeability promoting activity of VEGF-A. Despite little in vitro evidence to date for the ability of Vegf-B to directly promote angiogenesis, recent data indicate that it may promote postnatal vascular growth in mice, suggesting that it may have potential therapeutic application. We have specifically studied the effects of VEGF-B on vascular growth in vivo and on angiogenesis in vitro by analyzing transgenic mice in which individual isoforms (VEGFB167Tg and VEGFB186Tg) of VEGF-B are overexpressed in endothelial cells. VEGFB167Tg and VEGFB186Tg mice displayed enhanced vascular growth in the Matrigel assay in vivo and during cutaneous wound healing. In the aortic explant assay, explants from VEGFB167Tg and VEGFB186Tg mice displayed elevated vascular growth, suggesting a direct effect of VEGF-B isoforms in potentiating angiogenesis. These data support the use of VEGF-B as a therapeutic agent to promote vascular growth, in part, by potentiating angiogenesis. Furthermore, the lack of vascular permeability activity associated with either transgenic overexpression of the VEGF-B gene in endothelial cells or application of VEGF-B protein to the skin of mice in the Miles assay indicates that use of VEGF-B as a therapy should not be associated with edematous side effects.