Distinct profile of vascular progenitor attachment to extracellular matrix proteins in cancer patients

Clin Invest Med. 2012 Apr 1;35(2):E86-95. doi: 10.25011/cim.v35i2.16292.


Background: Vascular progenitor cells (VPCs) facilitate angiogenesis and initiate vascular repair by homing in on sites of damage and adhering to extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. VPCs also contribute to tumor angiogenesis and induce angiogenic switching in sites of metastatic cancer. In this study, the binding of attaching cells in VPC clusters that form in vitro on specific ECM proteins was investigated.

Methods: VPC cluster assays were performed in vitro on ECM proteins enriched in cancer cells and in remodelling tissue. Profiles of VPC clusters from patients with cancer were compared to healthy controls. The role of VEGF and integrin-specific binding of angiogenic attaching cells was addressed.

Results: VPC clusters from cancer patients were markedly increased on fibronectin relative to other ECM proteins tested, in contrast to VPC clusters from control subjects, which formed preferentially on laminin. Specific integrin-mediated binding of attaching cells in VPC clusters was matrix protein-dependent. Furthermore, cancer patients had elevated plasma VEGF levels compared to healthy controls and VEGF facilitated preferential VPC cluster formation on fibronectin. Incubating cells from healthy controls with VEGF induced a switch from the 'healthy' VPC binding profile to the profile observed in cancer patients with a marked increase in VPC cluster formation on fibronectin.

Conclusion: The ECM proteins laminin and fibronectin support VPC cluster formation via specific integrins on attaching cells and can facilitate patterns of VPC cluster formation that are distinct in cancer patients. Larger studies, however, are needed to gain insight on how tumor angiogenesis may differ from normal repair processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Laminin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Fibronectins
  • Laminin
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A