Cathepsin B regulates the intrinsic angiogenic threshold of endothelial cells

Mol Biol Cell. 2005 Aug;16(8):3488-500. doi: 10.1091/mbc.e04-11-1029. Epub 2005 May 18.


The lysosomal protease cathepsin B has been implicated in a variety of pathologies including pancreatitis, tumor angiogenesis, and neuronal diseases. We used a tube formation assay to investigate the role of cathepsin B in angiogenesis. When cultured between two layers of collagen I, primary endothelial cells formed tubes in response to exogenously added VEGF. Overexpressing cathepsin B reduced the VEGF-dependent tube response, whereas pharmacologically or molecularly suppressing cathepsin B eliminated the dependence on exogenous VEGF. However, tube formation still required VEGF receptor activity, which suggested that endothelial cells generated VEGF. Indeed, VEGF mRNA and protein was detectable in cells treated with cathepsin B inhibitor, which correlated with a rise in the level of HIF-1alpha. In addition to boosting the level of proangiogenic factors, blocking cathepsin B activity reduced the amount of the antiangiogenic protein endostatin. Thus endothelial cells have the intrinsic capacity to generate pro- and antiangiogenic agents. These observations complement and expand our appreciation of how endothelial cell-derived proteases regulate angiogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cathepsin B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cathepsin B / deficiency
  • Cathepsin B / genetics
  • Cathepsin B / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endostatins / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • RNA Interference
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / pharmacology


  • Endostatins
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Caspases
  • Cathepsin B
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases