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Role of vascular endothelial growth factor in the communication between human osteoprogenitors and endothelial cells



Proper bone remodeling requires an active process of angiogenesis which in turn supplies the necessary growth factors and stem cells. This tissue cooperation suggests a cross-talk between osteoblasts and endothelial cells. This work aims to identify the role of paracrine communication through vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in co-culture between osteoblastic and endothelial cells. Through a well defined direct contact co-culture model between human osteoprogenitors (HOPs) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), we observed that HUVECs were able to migrate along HOPs, inducing the formation of specific tubular-like structures. VEGF165 gene expression was detected in the HOPs, was up-regulated in the co-cultured HOPs and both Flt-1 and KDR gene expression increased in co-cultured HUVECs. However, the cell rearrangement observed in co-culture was promoted by a combination of soluble chemoattractive factors and not by VEGF165 alone. Despite having no observable effect on endothelial cell tubular-like formation, VEGF appeared to have a crucial role in osteoblastic differentiation since the inhibition of its receptors reduced the co-culture-stimulated osteoblastic phenotype. This co-culture system appears to enhance both primary angiogenesis events and osteoblastic differentiation, thus allowing for the development of new strategies in vascularized bone tissue engineering. J. Cell. Biochem. 106: 390–398, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.