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Oleanolic Acids Inhibit Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor 2 Signaling in Endothelial Cells: Implication for Anti-Angiogenic Therapy.

Angiogenesis must be precisely controlled because uncontrolled angiogenesis is involved in aggravation of disease symptoms. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) signaling is a key pathway leading to angiogenic responses in vascular endothelial cells (ECs). Therefore, targeting VEGF/VEGFR-2 signaling may be effective at modulating angiogenesis to alleviate various disease symptoms. Oleanolic acid was verified as a VEGFR-2 binding chemical from anticancer herbs with similar binding affinity as a reference drug in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) entry 3CJG of model A coordination. Oleanolic acid effectively inhibited VEGF-induced VEGFR-2 activation and angiogenesis in HU-VECs without cytotoxicity. We also verified that oleanolic acid inhibits angiogenesis during the development and the course of the retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) model in the mouse retina. Taken together, our results suggest a potential therapeutic benefit of oleanolic acid for inhibiting angiogenesis in proangiogenic diseases, including retinopathy.

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Prokaryotic Soluble Overexpression and Purification of Human VEGF165 by Fusion to a Maltose Binding Protein Tag.

Human vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key regulator of angiogenesis and plays a central role in the process of tumor growth and metastatic dissemination. Escherichia coli is one of the most common expression systems used for the production of recombinant proteins; however, expression of human VEGF in E. coli has proven difficult because the E. coli-expressed VEGF tends to be misfolded and forms inclusion bodies, resulting in poor solubility. In this study, we successfully produced semi-preparative amounts of soluble bioactive human VEGF165 (hVEGF). We created seven N-terminal fusion tag constructs with hexahistidine (His6), thioredoxin (Trx), glutathione S-transferase (GST), maltose-binding protein (MBP), N-utilization substance protein A (NusA), human protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), and the b'a' domain of PDI (PDIb'a'), and tested each construct for soluble overexpression in E. coli. We found that at 18°C, 92.8% of the MBP-tagged hVEGF to be soluble and that this tag significantly increased the protein's solubility. We successfully purified 0.8 mg of pure hVEGF per 500 mL cell culture. The purified hVEGF is stable after tag cleavage, contains very low levels of endotoxin, and is 97.6% pure. Using an Flk1+ mesodermal precursor cell (MPC) differentiation assay, we show that the purified hVEGF is not only bioactive but has similar bioactivity to hVEGF produced in mammalian cells. Previous reports on producing hVEGF in E. coli have all been based on refolding of the protein from inclusion bodies. To our knowledge, this is the first report on successfully expressing and purifying soluble hVEGF in E. coli.

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Dual blockade of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) exhibits potent anti-angiogenic effects.

Both vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF or FGF-2) are potent pro-angiogenic factors and play a critical role in cancer development and progression. Clinical anti-VEGF therapy trials had a major challenge due to upregulated expression of other pro-angiogenic factor, like FGF-2. This study developed a novel chimeric decoy receptor VF-Trap fusion protein to simultaneously block activity of both VEGF and FGF pathways in order to achieve an additive or synergistic anti-tumor effect. Our in vitro data showed that VF-Trap potently blocked proliferation and migration of both VEGF- and FGF-2-induced vascular endothelial cells. In animal models, treatment of xenograft tumors with VF-Trap resulted in significant inhibition of tumor growth compared to blockage of the single molecule, like VEGF or FGF blocker. In addition, VF-Trap was also more potent in inhibition of ocular angiogenesis in a mouse oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) model. These data demonstrated the potent anti-angiogenic effects of this novel VF-Trap fusion protein on blockage of VEGF and FGF-2 activity in vitro and in animal models. Further study will assess its effects in clinic as a therapeutic agent for angiogenesis-related disorders, such as cancer and ocular vascular diseases.

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Novel glycosylated VEGF decoy receptor fusion protein, VEGF-Grab, efficiently suppresses tumor angiogenesis and progression.

Antiangiogenic therapies targeting VEGFA have been commonly used in clinics to treat cancers over the past decade. However, their clinical efficacy has been limited, with drawbacks including acquisition of resistance and activation of compensatory pathways resulting from elevated circulating VEGFB and placental growth factor (PlGF). To bypass these disadvantages, we developed a novel glycosylated soluble decoy receptor fusion protein, VEGF-Grab, that can neutralize VEGFA, VEGFB, and PlGF. VEGF-Grab has the second and third immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domains of VEGF receptor 1 (VEGFR1) fused to IgG1 Fc, with three potential glycosylation sites introduced into the third Ig-like domain of VEGF-Grab by mutagenesis. Compared with VEGF-Trap, VEGF-Grab showed more potent decoy activity against VEGF and PlGF, mainly attributed to the VEGFR1 backbone. Most importantly, the negatively charged O-glycans attached to the third Ig-like domain of VEGFR1 counterbalanced the originally positively charged VEGFR1 backbone, minimizing nonspecific binding of VEGF-Grab to the extracellular matrix, and resulting in greatly improved pharmacokinetic profile. These advancements led to stronger and more durable antiangiogenic, antitumor, and antimetastatic efficacy in both implanted and spontaneous tumor models as compared with VEGF-Trap, while toxicity profiles were comparable with VEGF-Trap. Collectively, our results highlight VEGF-Grab as a promising therapeutic candidate for further clinical drug development.

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Endothelial invasive response in a co-culture model with physically-induced osteodifferentiation.

Manipulation of stem cells using physicochemical stimuli has emerged as an important tool in regenerative medicine. While 2D substrates with tunable elasticity have been studied for control of stem cell differentiation, we recently developed a stratified co-culture model of angiogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) that differentiate on a tunable polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrate, thereby creating a physiologic context for elasticity-induced differentiation. Endothelial cells (EC) were cultured on top of the hMSC construct on a collagen gel to monitor network formation. Media composition influenced EC invasion due to the conditioning media, the reduction of serum and supplemental growth factors, and the addition of recombinant growth factors. Conditioned media, recombinant growth factors and direct co-culture were compared for endothelial cell invasive response using quantitative image analysis. As anticipated, use of recombinant vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induced the deepest EC invasions while direct co-culture caused shallow invasions compared to other conditions. However, endothelial cells displayed lumen-like morphology, suggesting that cell-cell interaction in the co-culture model could mimic sprouting behaviour. In summary, an engineered suitable biochemical and physical environment facilitated endothelial cells to form 3D vessel structures onto hMSCs. These structures were plated on a stiff surface known to induce osteodifferentiation of stem cells. This low cost co-culture system, with its minimal chemical supplementation and physically controllable matrix, could potentially model in vivo potential in engineered and pre-vascularized bone grafts.

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Early expression of pregnancy-specific glycoprotein 22 (PSG22) by trophoblast cells modulates angiogenesis in mice.

Mouse and human pregnancy-specific glycoproteins (PSG) are known to exert immunomodulatory functions during pregnancy by inducing maternal leukocytes to secrete anti-inflammatory cytokines that promote a tolerogenic decidual microenvironment. Many such anti-inflammatory mediators also function as proangiogenic factors, which, along with the reported association of murine PSG with the uterine vasculature, suggest that PSG may contribute to the vascular adaptations necessary for successful implantation and placental development. We observed that PSG22 is strongly expressed around the embryonic crypt on Gestation Day 5.5, indicating that trophoblast giant cells are the main source of PSG22 during the early stages of pregnancy. PSG22 treatment up-regulated the secretion of transforming growth factor beta 1 and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) in murine macrophages, uterine dendritic cells, and natural killer cells. A possible role of PSGs in uteroplacental angiogenesis is further supported by the finding that incubation of endothelial cells with PSG22 resulted in the formation of tubes in the presence and absence of VEGFA. We determined that PSG22, like human PSG1 and murine PSG17 and PSG23, binds to the heparan sulfate chains in syndecans. Therefore, our findings indicate that despite the independent evolution and expansion of human and rodent PSG, members in both families have conserved functions that include their ability to induce anti-inflammatory cytokines and proangiogenic factors as well as to induce the formation of capillary structures by endothelial cells. In summary, our results indicate that PSG22, the most abundant PSG expressed during mouse early pregnancy, is likely a major contributor to the establishment of a successful pregnancy.

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[Stable expression of rhVEGF165 in Chinese hamster ovary cells].

We established a stable Chinese hamster ovary (CHO-S) cell line for recombinant human VEGF165-expressing. We co-transfected GS-expression vector and rhVEGF165 expression plasmid into CHO-S cells, and selected the highest VEGF165-expressing clone as the working cell line to express VEGF165 protein. After 7-day fed-batch culture in a 5 L bioreactor and 3 steps chromatographic purification, we got the rhVEGF165 protein for series of binding and biological activity examination. The production was over 50 mg/L. The purified rhVEGF165 protein was functionally active with a half-maximal Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVEC) growth-enhancing effect concentration of 1.94 ng/mL. It was slightly better than commercially available Escherichia coli expressing rhVEGF165. So we expressed successfully rhVEGF165 protein in high-level and obtained the fully active rhVEGF165 protein in large quantity.

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Role of afadin in vascular endothelial growth factor- and sphingosine 1-phosphate-induced angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis contributes to physiological and pathological conditions, including atherosclerosis. The Rap1 small G protein regulates vascular integrity and angiogenesis. However, little is known about the effectors of Rap1 involved in angiogenesis. It is not known whether afadin, an adherens junction protein that connects immunoglobulin-like adhesion molecule nectins to the actin cytoskeleton and binds activated Rap1, plays a role in angiogenesis.

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Suppression of tumor growth and metastasis by simultaneously blocking vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A and VEGF-C with a receptor-immunoglobulin fusion protein.

The major cause of cancer mortality is the metastatic spread of tumor cells that can occur via multiple routes, including the vascular system and the lymphatic system. In this study, we developed an IgG-like fusion protein molecule [vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor 31-immunoglobulin (VEGFR31-Ig)] which could simultaneously bind the angiogenic growth factor VEGF-A and the lymphangiogenic growth factor VEGF-C. Importantly, VEGFR31-Ig exhibited VEGF-A-binding affinity similar to that of VEGFTrap, the most potent VEGF-A binder, and VEGF-C-binding affinity comparable with that of the soluble fusion protein VEGFR3-Ig (sVEGFR3). Pharmacokinetic analysis in mice showed that VEGFR31-Ig had improved pharmacokinetic properties compared with either VEGFTrap or sVEGFR3. In a highly metastatic human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCCLM3) model in severe combined immunodeficient mice, VEGFR31-Ig potently blocked both tumor angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, effectively inhibiting primary tumor growth and metastasis to lungs and lymph nodes. In contrast, VEGFTrap only suppressed primary tumor growth and metastasis to lungs by inhibiting tumor angiogenesis, whereas VEGFR3 was only effective in suppressing tumor metastasis to lymph nodes by blocking tumor lymphangiogenesis. Although a combination of VEGFTrap (25 mg/kg twice weekly) and sVEGFR3 (25 mg/kg twice weekly) can achieve the same therapeutic effect as VEGFR31-Ig (25 mg/kg twice weekly) in the HCCLM3 xenograft mouse model, developing two separate receptor-Ig fusion proteins for clinical use as combination therapy is impractical, mainly owing to regulatory hurdles and cost. Taken together, the VEGFR31-Ig fusion protein presented here has been suggested to have great potential for the treatment of metastatic cancer.

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Overproduction of recombinant human VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) in Chinese hamster ovary cells.

Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) are a family of proteins that mediate angiogenesis. VEGF165 is a VEGF-A isoform and has been extensively studied owing to its potential use in therapeutic angiogenesis. This study established Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells overexpressing recombinant human VEGF165 (rhVEGF165) protein. The production rate of the established CHO cells was over 80 mg/l of rhVEGF165 protein from a 7-day batch culture process using a 7.5-l bioreactor with a 5-l working volume and serum-free medium. The rhVEGF165 protein was purified to homogeneity from the culture supernatant using a two-step chromatographic procedure that resulted in a 48% recovery rate. The purified rhVEGF165 protein was a glycosylated homodimeric protein with a higher molecular weight (MW) than the protein expressed from insect cells, suggesting that the glycosylation of the rhVEGF165 protein in CHO cells differed from that in insect cells. The purified rhVEGF165 protein in this study was functionally active with a half-maximal effective concentration of 3.8 ng/ ml and specific activity of 2.5 x 105 U/mg.

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