• CD31;
  • HIF-1α;
  • ovarian cancer;
  • plasticity;
  • vasculogenic mimicry


The aim of this study is to investigate the plasticity of human epithelial ovarian cancer cell SKOV3ip and formation of vasculogenic mimicry (VM) in vivo. SKOV3ip was transfected with lentiviral vector carrying green fluorescence protein (GFP). Female nude mice were implanted intraperitoneally with GFP-labled SKOV3ip. When the transplanted tumor reached a volume of approximately 1 cm3, paraffin-embedded, formaldehyde-fixed tissue was prepared and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H & E). Tumor tissues were also studied by electron microscopy and fluorescence microscopy. The results of H & E staining, electron microscopy, and fluorescence microscopy indicated SKOV3ip formed patterned networks with erythrocytes in them, in the absence of vascular epithelial cells, which was a sign that SKOV3ip engaged in VM in vivo. Expression of vascular epithelium marker CD31 was investigated by immunohistochemical staining, immunofluorescence assay, semiquantitative reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and flow cytometric analysis (FACS). Factor VIII and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) were also analyzed by FACS. Weak and focal CD31 immunohistochemical staining was found along the channels of tumor cells. Immunofluorescence assay and RT-PCR demonstrated that CD31 was expressed in primary-cultured SKOV3ip. CD31 and Factor VIII, but not VEGF were detected in primary-cultured SKOV3ip by FACS. The present study has shown that human ovarian cancer cell line SKOV3ip may be able to express some specific markers of vascular epithelial cells and has plasticity to form VM in vivo. In the following study, we indicated that hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α inhibitor, rapamycin, could possibly prevent VM and phenotype transformation of SKOV3ip, reflected by down-regulating expression of CD31 and Factor VIII. HIF-1α protein expression correlated with CD31 and Factor VIII protein expression in SKOV3ip. These results indicated that VM might be associated with HIF-1α.