Angiopoietin 1 (Ang1), a ligand for the receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2, regulates the formation and stabilization of the blood vessel network during embryogenesis. In adults, Ang1 is associated with blood vessel stabilization and recruitment of perivascular cells, whereas Ang2 acts to counter these actions. Recent results from gene-targeted mice have shown that Ang2 is also essential for the proper patterning of lymphatic vessels and that Ang1 can be substituted for this function. In order to characterize the effects of the angiopoietins on lymphatic vessels, we employed viral vectors for overexpression of Ang1 in adult mouse tissues. We found that Ang1 activated lymphatic vessel endothelial proliferation, vessel enlargement, and generation of long endothelial cell filopodia that eventually fused, leading to new sprouts and vessel development. Cutaneous lymphatic hyperplasia was also detected in transgenic mice expressing Ang1 in the basal epidermal cells. Tie2 was expressed in the lymphatic endothelial cells and Ang1 stimulation of these cells resulted in up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR-3). Furthermore, a soluble form of VEGFR-3 inhibited the observed lymphatic sprouting. Our results reinforce the concept that Ang1 therapy may be useful in settings of tissue edema.
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