Skin of heart

By Richard Grant Skin of heart Dr Boris Strilic / Lammert laboratory The paperB. Strilic et al., “The molecular basis of vascular lumen formation in the developing mouse aorta,” Dev Cell, 17:505–15, 2009. The findingEcki Lammert and colleagues at the University of Düsseldorf were looking to settle a debate: Do endothelial cells create blood vessels from expanding vacuoles, or do they flatten out and wrap into a hollow cylind

Jul 1, 2010
Richard Grant

Skin of heart

Dr Boris Strilic / Lammert laboratory

The paper

B. Strilic et al., “The molecular basis of vascular lumen formation in the developing mouse aorta,” Dev Cell, 17:505–15, 2009.

The finding

Ecki Lammert and colleagues at the University of Düsseldorf were looking to settle a debate: Do endothelial cells create blood vessels from expanding vacuoles, or do they flatten out and wrap into a hollow cylinder? Using powerful microscopy techniques first author Boris Strilic found that two rows of cells face each other and then push apart, while cytoskeletal proteins compress the cell—just like a toilet roll tube.

The heartache

Strilic spent 2 years searching for evidence for the vacuole hypothesis, using in vitro cell culture and an artificial support. But he couldn’t reliably tell when the cells passed through different developmental stages.

The breakthrough

Strilic developed an in vivo model by dissecting and culturing a developing aorta from mouse embryos. He used a new microscopic technique called ‘selective plane illumination’ to watch the aorta—the first and most important blood vessel to form in mammals—as it developed. He saw that the lumen formed between two rows of cells, proving that the vacuole model was wrong.

The details

“Impressively,” wrote Christine Chiasson, in her F1000 review, “they were also able to elucidate a detailed molecular pathway through which [lumen formation] occurs.” For example, Strilic found that the vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), involved in angiogenesis, acts late in lumen development by recruiting myosin to force the changes in cell shape.

F1000 evaluators: R. Böttcher and R. Fässler (Max Planck Gesellschaft) • M. Llimargas (Inst. de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona) • C. Chiasson and A. Kowalczyk (Emory Univ.) • F. Kiefer (Max Planck Inst. Molecular Biomedicine)

Click here for the complete F1000 review of this paper.