Loss of CCM3 impairs DLL4-Notch signalling: implication in endothelial angiogenesis and in inherited cerebral cavernous malformations


Correspondence to: Dr. Yuan ZHU,

Department of Neurosurgery, University of Duisburg-Essen,

Hufelandstr. 55, Essen 45147, Germany.

Tel. +49-201-7231231

Fax. +49-201-7235909

E-mail: yuan.zhu@uk-essen.de


CCM3, a product of the cerebral cavernous malformation 3 or programmed cell death 10 gene (CCM3/PDCD10), is broadly expressed throughout development in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Increasing evidence indicates a crucial role of CCM3 in vascular development and in regulation of angiogenesis and apoptosis. Furthermore, loss of CCM3 causes inherited (familial) cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM), a common brain vascular anomaly involving aberrant angiogenesis. This study focused on signalling pathways underlying the angiogenic functions of CCM3. Silencing CCM3 by siRNA stimulated endothelial proliferation, migration and sprouting accompanied by significant downregulation of the core components of Notch signalling including DLL4, Notch4, HEY2 and HES1 and by activation of VEGF and Erk pathways. Treatment with recombinant DLL4 (rhDLL4) restored DLL4 expression and reversed CCM3-silence-mediated impairment of Notch signalling and reduced the ratio of VEGF-R2 to VEGF-R1 expression. Importantly, restoration of DLL4-Notch signalling entirely rescued the hyper-angiogenic phenotype induced by CCM3 silence. A concomitant loss of CCM3 and the core components of DLL4-Notch signalling were also demonstrated in CCM3-deficient endothelial cells derived from human CCM lesions (CCMEC) and in a CCM3 germline mutation carrier. This study defined DLL4 as a key downstream target of CCM3 in endothelial cells. CCM3/DLL4-Notch pathway serves as an important signalling for endothelial angiogenesis and is potentially implicated in the pathomechanism of human CCMs.