Notch function in the vasculature: insights from zebrafish, mouse and man

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Abstract

Vascular development entails multiple cell-fate decisions to specify a diverse array of vascular structures. Notch proteins are signaling receptors that regulate cell-fate determination in a variety of cell types. The finding that Notch genes are robustly expressed in the vasculature suggests roles for Notch in guiding endothelial and associated mural cells through the myriad of cell-fate decisions needed to form the vasculature. In fact, mice with defects in genes encoding Notch, Notch ligands, and components of the Notch signaling cascade invariably display vascular defects. Human Notch genes are linked to Alagille's Syndrome, a developmental disorder with vascular defects, and CADASIL, a cerebral arteriopathy. Studies in zebrafish, mice and humans indicate that Notch works in conjunction with other angiogenic pathways to pattern and stabilize the vasculature. Here, we will focus on established functions for Notch in vascular remodeling and arterial/venous specification and more speculative roles in vascular homeostasis and organ-specific angiogenesis. BioEssays 26:225–234, 2004. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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