Angiogenesis is a fundamental vertebrate developmental process that requires signalling by the secreted protein vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A). VEGF-A functions in the development of embryonic structures, during tissue remodelling and for the growth of tumour-induced vasculature. The study of the role of VEGF-A during normal development has been significantly complicated by the dominant, haplo-insufficient nature of VEGF-A-targeted mutations in mice. We have used morpholino-based targeted gene knock-down technology to generate a zebrafish VEGF-A morphant loss of function model. Zebrafish VEGF-A morphant embryos develop with an enlarged pericardium and with major blood vessel deficiencies. Morphological assessment at 2 days of development indicates a nearly complete absence of both axial and intersegmental vasculature, with no or reduced numbers of circulating red blood cells. Molecular analysis using the endothelial markers fli-1 and flk-1 at 1 day of development demonstrates a fundamental distinction between VEGF-A requirements for axial and intersegmental vascular structure specification. VEGF-A is not required for the initial establishment of axial vasculature patterning, whereas all development of intersegmental vasculature is dependent on VEGF-A signalling. The zebrafish thus serves as a quality model for the study of conserved vertebrate angiogenesis processes during embryonic development.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.