Molecular distinction between arteries and veins

Cell Tissue Res. 2003 Oct;314(1):43-59. doi: 10.1007/s00441-003-0771-8. Epub 2003 Sep 23.


The vertebrate vascular system is essential for the delivery and exchange of gases, hormones, metabolic wastes and immunity factors. These essential functions are carried out in large part by two types of anatomically distinct blood vessels, namely arteries and veins. Previously, circulatory dynamics were thought to play a major role in establishing this dichotomy, but recently it has become clear that arterial and venous endothelial cells are molecularly distinct even before the output of the first embryonic heartbeat, thus revealing the existence of genetic programs coordinating arterial-venous differentiation. Here we review some of the molecular mechanisms involved in this process.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteries / cytology
  • Arteries / embryology*
  • Embryonic Induction
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / embryology
  • Ephrins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Eph Family / metabolism
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Veins / cytology
  • Veins / embryology*
  • Vertebrates / embryology


  • Ephrins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Receptors, Eph Family