Although vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been well studied in both developmental and pathological angiogenesis, its role in mature blood vessels is poorly understood. A growing body of observations, including the side effects of anti-VEGF therapies as well as the role of soluble VEGFR1 in preeclampsia, points to an important role for VEGF in maintenance of stable blood vessels. To better understand the potential function of VEGF in mature vessels, a survey of VEGF localization in adult mice was conducted. In adult VEGF-lacZ mice, VEGF was expressed in a cell-specific manner by cells overlying fenestrated and sinusoidal blood vessels, including podocytes, choroid plexus epithelium, and hepatocytes, as well as in tissues with high metabolic demands or with secretory functions, such as cardiac and skeletal myocytes, Leydig cells, prostatic epithelium, and salivary serous epithelium. VEGF was not detected in most endothelium but was specifically expressed by aortic endothelial cells where VEGFR2 was found to be phosphorylated, indicating an autocrine loop. Additionally, VEGFR2 was constitutively phosphorylated in the liver, lung, adipose, and kidney in vivo, providing evidence consistent with a role for VEGF in adult tissues. These observations support the concept that VEGF acts in the adult to stabilize mature vessels.

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