The vascular endothelium normally is maintained in a quiescent state, but under certain conditions it is induced to undergo marked changes in behavior and form new vascular structures. A complex interaction among various growth and differentiation factors and the extracellular milieu regulates this behavior. One series of signals affecting endothelial behavior is provided by laminin, a major structural protein of basement membrane. These signals have been studied using Matrigel, a reconstituted basement membrane preparation from the murine EnglebrethHolm-Swarm sarcoma, in an in vitro assay of endothelial cell differentiation. Three biologically-active sequences from the laminin molecule have been evaluated. Synthetic peptides that include the sequences -RGD-, -YIGSR-, and -SIKVAV- mediate, respectively, cell binding to Matrigel, alterations in cell morphology, and induction of migration and collagenase activity. Preliminary data indicate that observations made with this system may be relevant to endothelial function in vivo. Endothelial cell differentiation on Matrigel may thus be a useful in vitro model for the study of certain steps in angiogenesis.
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