The impact of the receptor binding profiles of the vascular endothelial growth factors on their angiogenic features

Tiina Nieminen, Pyry I Toivanen, Nina Rintanen, Tommi Heikura, Suvi Jauhiainen, Kari J Airenne, Kari Alitalo, Varpu Marjomäki, Seppo Ylä-Herttuala
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2014, 1840 (1): 454-63

BACKGROUND: Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) are potential therapeutic agents for treatment of ischemic diseases. Their angiogenic effects are mainly mediated through VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2).

METHODS: Receptor binding, signaling, and biological efficacy of several VEGFR2 ligands were compared to determine their characteristics regarding angiogenic activity and vascular permeability.

RESULTS: Tested VEGFR2 ligands induced receptor tyrosine phosphorylation with different efficacy depending on their binding affinities. However, the tyrosine phosphorylation pattern and the activation of the major downstream signaling pathways were comparable. The maximal angiogenic effect stimulated by different VEGFR2 ligands was dependent on their ability to bind to co-receptor Neuropilin (Nrp), which was shown to form complexes with VEGFR2. The ability of these VEGFR2 ligands to induce vascular permeability was dependent on their concentration and VEGFR2 affinity, but not on Nrp binding.

CONCLUSIONS: VEGFR2 activation alone is sufficient for inducing endothelial cell proliferation, formation of tube-like structures and vascular permeability. The level of VEGFR2 activation is dependent on the binding properties of the ligand used. However, closely similar activation pattern of the receptor kinase domain is seen with all VEGFR2 ligands. Nrp binding strengthens the angiogenic potency without increasing vascular permeability.

GENERAL SIGNIFICANCE: This study sheds light on how different structurally closely related VEGFR2 ligands bind to and signal via VEGFR2/Nrp complex to induce angiogenesis and vascular permeability. The knowledge of this study could be used for designing VEGFR2/Nrp ligands with improved therapeutic properties.

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