Abstract

Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) and their receptors (VEGFRs) are pivotal regulators of angiogenesis. The VEGF–VEGFR system is therefore an important target of anti-angiogenesis therapy. Based on the X-ray structure of VEGF-B/VEGFR-1 D2, we designed a cyclic peptide (known as VGB1) reproducing the α1 helix and its adjacent region to interfere with signaling through VEGFR-1. Unexpectedly, VGB1 bound VEGFR-2 in addition to VEGFR-1, leading to inhibition of VEGF-stimulated proliferation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells and 4T1 murine mammary carcinoma cells, which express VGEFR-1 and VEGFR-2, and U87 glioblastoma cells that mostly express VEGFR-2. VGB1 inhibited different aspects of angiogenesis, including proliferation, migration and tube formation of endothelial cells stimulated by VEGF-A through suppression of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and AKT (Protein Kinase B) phosphorylation. In a murine 4T1 mammary carcinoma model, VGB1 caused regression of tumors without causing weight loss in association with impaired cell proliferation (decreased Ki67 expression) and angiogenesis (decreased CD31 and CD34 expression), and apoptosis induction (increased TUNEL staining and p53 expression, and decreased Bcl-2 expression). According to far-UV circular dichroism (CD) and molecular dynamic simulation data, VGB1 can adopt a helical structure. These results, for the first time, demonstrate that α1 helix region of VEGF-B recognizes both VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2.

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