Cell elongation is key to in silico replication of in vitro vasculogenesis and subsequent remodeling

Dev Biol. 2006 Jan 1;289(1):44-54. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.10.003. Epub 2005 Dec 1.


Vasculogenesis, the de novo growth of the primary vascular network from initially dispersed endothelial cells, is the first step in the development of the circulatory system in vertebrates. In the first stages of vasculogenesis, endothelial cells elongate and form a network-like structure, called the primary capillary plexus, which subsequently remodels, with the size of the vacancies between ribbons of endothelial cells coarsening over time. To isolate such intrinsic morphogenetic ability of endothelial cells from its regulation by long-range guidance cues and additional cell types, we use an in vitro model of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) in Matrigel. This quasi-two-dimensional endothelial cell culture model would most closely correspond to vasculogenesis in flat areas of the embryo like the yolk sac. Several studies have used continuum mathematical models to explore in vitro vasculogenesis: such models describe cell ensembles but ignore the endothelial cells' shapes and active surface fluctuations. While these models initially reproduce vascular-like morphologies, they eventually stabilize into a disconnected pattern of vascular "islands." Also, they fail to reproduce temporally correct network coarsening. Using a cell-centered computational model, we show that the endothelial cells' elongated shape is key to correct spatiotemporal in silico replication of stable vascular network growth. We validate our simulation results against HUVEC cultures using time-resolved image analysis and find that our simulations quantitatively reproduce in vitro vasculogenesis and subsequent in vitro remodeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / embryology*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemotactic Factors / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Umbilical Cord / cytology


  • Chemotactic Factors