In adult skeletal muscle, abluminal sprouting or longitudinal splitting of capillaries can be initiated separately by muscle overload and elevated microcirculation shear stress respectively. In the present study, gene and protein expression patterns associated with the different forms of angiogenesis were examined using a targeted gene array (Superarray), validated by quantitative RT (reverse transcription)-PCR and immunoblots. Sprouting angiogenesis induced large changes in expression levels in genes associated with extracellular matrix remodelling, such as MMP-2 (matrix metalloproteinase-2), TIMP (tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases), SPARC (secreted protein, acidic and rich in cysteine) and thrombospondin. Changes in neuropilin, midkine and restin levels, which may underpin changes in endothelial morphology, were seen during splitting angiogenesis. Up-regulation of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), Flk-1, angiopoietin-2 and PECAM-1 (platelet/endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1) was seen in both forms of angiogenesis, representing a common angiogenic response of endothelial cells. In conclusion, the present study demonstrates that general angiogenic signals from growth factors can be influenced by the local microenvironment resulting in differing forms of capillary growth to produce a co-ordinated expansion of the vascular bed.

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