The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor KDR/Flk-1 is a major regulator of malignant ascites formation in the mouse hepatocellular carcinoma model



The vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), also known as the vascular permeability factor (VPF), has been shown to play an important role in malignant ascites formation. The effects of VEGF-A are mediated through flt-1 and kinase insert domain–containing receptor/fetal liver kinase (KDR/Flk-1) receptors. It has been shown that KDR/Flk-1 is a predominant receptor in solid hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development, but the role of this receptor in hepatic ascites formation has not yet been elucidated. In this study, we examined the role of KDR/Flk-1 in the murine MH134 hepatic malignant ascites formation by means of VEGF-A– and KDR/Flk-1–specific neutralizing antibodies (VEGF-A nAb and KDR/Flk-1 nAb, respectively). The mean volume of ascites, number of tumor cells in ascites, and the peritoneal capillary permeability were significantly suppressed by VEGF-A nAb and KDR/Flk-1 nAb treatment. These inhibitory effects of KDR/Flk-1 nAb were more potent than those of VEGF-A nAb. The autophosphorylation of KDR/ Flk-1 in the peritoneal wall was almost completely abolished by KDR/ Flk-1 nAb, whereas a certain level of activation was still shown by VEGF-A nAb treatment. Another VEGF-family, VEGF-C, which also binds KDR/Flk-1, was detected in the ascites. Furthermore, in the therapeutic experiment, although both VEGF-A nAb and KDR/Flk-1 nAb prolonged the survival rate of ascites-bearing mice, the latter showed a more significant impact on the survival of animals. These results suggest that KDR/Flk-1 is a major regulator of malignant hepatic ascites formation, and that in addition to VEGF-A, VEGF-C may also be involved in the malignant ascites formation via KDR/ Flk-1 activation.