EGFL7 is a chemoattractant for endothelial cells and is up-regulated in angiogenesis and arterial injury
The endothelium of the adult vasculature is normally quiescent, with the exception of the vasculature of the female reproductive system. However, in response to appropriate stimuli (ie, wound healing, atherosclerosis, tumor growth and metastasis, arthritis) the vasculature becomes activated and grows new capillaries through angiogenesis. We have recently identified a novel endothelial-restricted gene, Egfl7, that encodes a 41-kd secreted protein (Fitch MJ, Campagnolo L, Kuhnert F, Stuhlmann H: Egfl7, a novel epidermal growth factor-domain gene expressed in endothelial cells. Dev Dyn 2004, 230:316-324). Egfl7 is expressed at high levels early during mouse embryonic development and is strictly associated with the vascular bed. In this study, we investigated Egfl7 expression in the quiescent adult vasculature, in the pregnant uterus, and in two different models of arterial injury, namely ballooning and ferric chloride injury. By RNA in situ hybridization, Egfl7 expression in the vasculature was found to be restricted to the endothelium of the capillaries and mature vessels. In the pregnant uterus, increased vascularization was accompanied by up-regulation of Egfl7. On arterial injury, Egfl7 expression was up-regulated in the regenerating endothelium, but not in the neointima. Importantly, the EGFL7 protein acted as a chemoattractant for embryonic endothelial cells and fibroblasts in a cell migration assay. Together, these results suggest that Egfl7 functions in the formation and maintenance of endothelial integrity and that its up-regulation may be a critical component in the reorganization of the vascular bed in response to angiogenic stimuli.