Abstract 3662: Involvement Of The Small Gtpase Rap1 In Integrin Signaling In Endothelial Cells And Postnatal Neovascularization
Ras associated protein 1 (Rap1), a small GTPase of the Ras family, has attracted much attention because of its involvement in several aspects of cell adhesion, including integrin- and cadherin-mediated adhesion. Yet, the role of Rap1 genes for integrin signaling in endothelial cells (EC) and angiogenesis has not been investigated. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) express Rap1a and Rap1b mRNA as assessed by RT-PCR. In order to determine the contribution of Rap1 activity for angiogenesis, we overexpressed Rap1GAP1, a GTPase activating protein, which specifically inhibits the activity of both Rap1a and Rap1b. Overexpression of Rap1GAP1 led to a significant inhibition of angiogenic sprouting of HUVEC under basal conditions and bFGF stimulation by 44 ± 5 % in a 3-dimensional spheroidal system and blocked tube formation in a matrigel assay, migration and adhesion. In order to separately investigate the role of Rap1a and Rap1b genes in angiogenesis, we performed gene silencing with siRNA. Silencing of either Rap1a or Rap1b significantly and additively blocked the sprouting of HUVEC under basal and bFGF-stimulated conditions (Rap1a-siRNA: 55 ± 5 %, Rap1b-siRNA: 61 ± 9 % and Rap1a+Rap1b siRNA: 73 ± 5% inhibition) and significantly reduced HUVEC migration and adhesion on fibronectin and collagen. Moreover, silencing of Rap1a and Rap1b reduced beta1-integrin affinity in HUVEC, suggesting the importance of Rap1a and Rap1b for inside-out integrin activation in EC. In addition, silencing of Rap1a and Rap1b prevented VEGF-induced PKB/Akt1 activation. These data prompted us to investigate the in vivo role of Rap1a using Rap1a-deficient mice. Interestingly, Rap1a−/− mice are born with a substantially reduced mendelian ratio. Rap1a+/− heterozygote mice displayed decreased microvessel density in comparison to wild-type mice (Rap1a+/+) in a matrigel plug assay. Moreover Rap1a+/− and Rap1a−/− displayed significantly reduced microvessel density in ischemic muscles in the model of hind limb ischemia in comparison to wild-type mice (Rap1a+/−: 32 ± 3 % ; Rap1a−/−: 43 ± 3 % inhibition). Thus, our data demonstrated a critical role of Rap1 in the regulation of β1-integrin signaling in endothelial cells and for postnatal neovascularization.