The angiopoietins act through the endothelial receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 to regulate vessel maturation in angiogenesis and control quiescence and stability of established vessels. The activating ligand, Ang1 (angiopoietin-1), is constitutively expressed by perivascular cells, and the ability of endothelial cells to respond to the ligand is controlled at the level of the Ang1 receptor. This receptor interacts with the related protein Tie1 on the cell surface, and Tie1 inhibits Ang1 signalling through Tie2. The responsiveness of endothelium to Ang1 is determined by the relative levels of Tie2 and the inhibitory co-receptor Tie1 in the cells. Tie1 undergoes regulated ectodomain cleavage which is stimulated by a range of factors including VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), inflammatory cytokines and changes in shear stress. Ectodomain cleavage of Tie1 relieves inhibition of Tie2 and enhances Ang1 signalling. This mechanism regulates Ang1 signalling without requiring changes in the level of the ligand and allows Ang1 signalling to be co-ordinated with other signals in the cellular environment. Regulation of signalling at the level of receptor responsiveness may be an important adaptation in systems in which an activating ligand is normally present in excess or where the ligand provides a constitutive maintenance signal.

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