Targeting NCK-Mediated Endothelial Cell Front-Rear Polarity Inhibits Neo-Vascularization
Background—Sprouting angiogenesis is a key process driving blood vessel growth in ischemic tissues and an important drug target in a number of diseases, including wet macular degeneration and wound healing. Endothelial cells forming the sprout must develop front-rear polarity to allow sprout extension. The adaptor proteins Nck1 and 2 are known regulators of cytoskeletal dynamics and polarity, but their function in angiogenesis is poorly understood. Here we show that the Nck adaptors are required for endothelial cell front-rear polarity and migration downstream of the angiogenic growth factors VEGF-A and Slit2.
Methods and Results—Mice carrying inducible, endothelial-specific Nck1/2 deletions fail to develop front-rear polarized vessel sprouts and exhibit severe angiogenesis defects in the postnatal retina and during embryonic development. Inactivation of NCK1 and 2 inhibits polarity by preventing Cdc42 and Pak2 activation by VEGF-A and Slit2. Mechanistically, NCK binding to ROBO1 is required for both Slit2 and VEGF induced front-rear polarity. Selective inhibition of polarized endothelial cell migration by targeting Nck1/2 prevents hypersprouting induced by Notch or Bmp signaling inhibition, as well as pathological ocular neovascularization and wound healing.
Conclusions—These data reveal a novel signal integration mechanism involving NCK1/2, ROBO1/2 and VEGFR2 that controls endothelial cell front-rear polarity during sprouting angiogenesis.
- Received May 19, 2015.
- Revision received November 20, 2015.
- Accepted December 4, 2015.