Ang-1 (angiopoietin-1) improves the ineffective angiogenesis and impaired wound healing in diabetes; however, the mechanism underlying this positive effect is still far from being completely understood. In the present study, we investigated whether rAAV (recombinant adeno-associated virus)–Ang-1 gene transfer could improve wound repair in genetically diabetic mice (db+/db+) and the mechanism(s) by which it causes new vessel formation. An incisional skin-wound model in diabetic and normoglycaemic mice was used. After the incision, animals received rAAV–LacZ or rAAV–Ang-1 in the wound edge. After 7 and 14 days, wounds were used to (i) confirm Ang-1 gene transfer, (ii) assess histologically the healing process, (iii) evaluate wound-breaking strength, and (iv) study new vessel formation by PECAM-1 (platelet/endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1) immunostaining. Finally, we investigated VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) mRNA and protein levels, eNOS (endothelial NO synthase) expression and VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 (VEGF receptor-1 and -2 respectively) immunostaining. The efficiency of Ang-1 gene transfer was confirmed by increased mRNA and protein expression of the protein. rAAV–Ang-1 significantly improved the healing process, stimulating re-epithelization and collagen maturation, increasing breaking strength and significantly augmenting the number of new vessels, as indicated by PECAM-1 immunostaining. However, Ang-1 gene transfer did not modify the decrease in VEGF mRNA and protein expression in diabetic mice; in contrast, Ang-1 increased eNOS expression and augmented nitrate wound content and VEGFR-2 immunostaining and protein expression. Ang-1 gene transfer did not change vascular permeability. Similar results were obtained in normoglycaemic animals. In conclusion, our results provide strong evidence that Ang-1 gene transfer improves the delayed wound repair in diabetes by inducing angiogenesis in a VEGF-independent manner.

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