Immunofluorescence mapping demonstrates that the NG2 proteoglycan is invariably expressed by the mural cell component of mouse neovascular structures. This pattern is independent of the developmental mechanism responsible for formation of the vasculature (vasculogenesis or angiogenesis). Thus, NG2 is expressed in the embryonic heart by cardiomyocytes, in developing macrovasculature by smooth muscle cells, and in nascent microvessels by vascular pericytes. Due to the scarcity of proven markers for developing pericytes, NG2 is especially useful for identification of this cell type. The utility of NG2 as a pericyte marker is illustrated by two observations. First, pericytes are associated with endothelial tubes at an early point in microvessel development. This early interaction between pericytes and endothelial cells has important implications for the role of pericytes in the development and stabilization of microvascular tubes. Second, the pericyte to endothelial cell ratio in developing capillaries varies from tissue to tissue. Because the extent of pericyte investment is likely to affect the physical properties of the vessel in question, it is important to understand the mechanisms that control this process. Additional insight into these and other aspects of vascular morphogenesis should be possible through use of NG2 as a mural cell marker.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.