The mammalian endothelium expresses two related but distinct receptor tyrosine kinases, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2 [VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) receptor 1 and 2], that regulate the vascular response to a key cytokine, VEGF-A. In the present review, we suggest a model for integrating the signals from these receptor tyrosine kinases by co-ordinating the spatial and temporal segregation of these membrane proteins linked to distinct signalling outputs associated with each intracellular location. Activation of pro-angiogenic VEGFR2 stimulates a programme of tyrosine phosphorylation, ubiquitination and proteolysis. This is linked to ESCRT (endosomal sorting complex required for transport)-mediated recognition of activated VEGFR2 and sorting in endosomes before arrival in lysosomes for terminal degradation. In addition, Rab GTPases regulate key events in VEGFR2 trafficking between the plasma membrane, early and late endosomes, with distinct roles for Rab4a, Rab5a and Rab7a. Manipulation of GTPase levels affects not only VEGFR2 activation and intracellular signalling, but also functional outputs such as VEGF-A-stimulated endothelial cell migration. In contrast, VEGFR1 displays stable Golgi localization that can be perturbed by cell stimuli that elevate cytosolic Ca2+ ion levels. One model is that VEGFR1 translocates from the trans-Golgi network to the plasma membrane via a calcium-sensitive trafficking step. This allows rapid and preferential sequestration of VEGF-A by the higher-affinity VEGFR1, thus blocking further VEGFR2 activation. Recycling or degradation of VEGFR1 allows resensitization of the VEGFR2-dependent signalling pathway. Thus a dual VEGFR system with a built-in negative-feedback loop is utilized by endothelial cells to sense a key cytokine in vascular tissues.

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