• cadmium;
  • VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor);
  • angiogenesis;
  • Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs)


Cadmium (Cd) is a highly toxic element that causes morphologic alterations and dysfunction in blood vessels. The altered vascular function caused by cadmium has been implicated in a range of chronic diseases, including hypertension. The effects of cadmium are a multisystem phenomenon involving inflammation, hypertrophy, apoptosis, angiogenesis and important processes involved in vascular remodeling systems. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays a major role in cell growth and angiogenesis under pathologic conditions. VEGF secretion is related to anti-apoptosis protein expression and attenuates apoptosis in endothelial cells. This study examined the VEGF-dependent mechanisms of angiogenesis and apoptosis in cadmium-treated endothelial cells (HUVECs). The effects and mechanisms of cadmium in endothelial cells (HUVECs) were examined by exposing the cells to different doses of cadmium chloride (2.5–40 μ m). After the cadmium treatment, the angiogenesis and apoptosis mechanisms related to VEGF in cadmium-treated HUVECs were examined. As a result, the low concentration of cadmium increased the tube formation in HUVECs. In addition, cadmium at concentrations of 5 and 10 μ m increased VEGF secretion and VEGFR2 activity, which suggest that cadmium affects the growth of blood vessels. All three MAPK pathways, namely ERK, JNK and p38, were activated by cadmium in HUVECs. However, high concentrations of cadmium caused cell damage, disrupted tube formation and inhibited VEGF expression and the activities of VEGFR2 and MAPK in HUVECs. Cadmium has dual functions through VEGF-dependent mechanisms in a dose-dependent manner. In this study, the dual effects of cadmium might alter angiogenesis and induce apoptosis through VEGF pathways in HUVECs. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.