In vitro angiogenesis: endothelial cell tube formation on gelled basement membrane extract

Nat Protoc. 2010 Apr;5(4):628-35. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2010.6. Epub 2010 Mar 11.


A protocol is presented here for a rapid, quantitative and reliable in vitro angiogenesis assay that can be adapted for high throughput use. Endothelial cells are plated on a gelled basement matrix, their natural substrate, and form capillary-like structures with a lumen. The assay can be used to identify inhibitors or stimulators of angiogenesis, as well as genes and signaling pathways involved in angiogenesis. It has also been used to identify endothelial progenitor cells. This assay involves endothelial cell adhesion, migration, protease activity and tubule formation. This tube formation assay is preferred, as other in vitro assays for angiogenesis, such as cell adhesion, migration and invasion, measure limited steps in the angiogenesis process. The tube formation assay on basement membrane can be completed in a day because transformed endothelial cells form tubes within 3 h, whereas non-transformed endothelial cells form tubes within 6 h.

MeSH terms

  • Basement Membrane / chemistry
  • Capillaries / cytology
  • Capillaries / growth & development
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytological Techniques / methods
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic* / drug effects
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic* / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic* / physiology


  • Gels