Expression of the growth factor progranulin in endothelial cells influences growth and development of blood vessels: a novel mouse model

PLoS One. 2013 May 31;8(5):e64989. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064989. Print 2013.


Progranulin is a secreted glycoprotein that regulates cell proliferation, migration and survival. It has roles in development, tumorigenesis, wound healing, neurodegeneration and inflammation. Endothelia in tumors, wounds and placenta express elevated levels of progranulin. In culture, progranulin activates endothelial proliferation and migration. This suggested that progranulin might regulate angiogenesis. It was, however, unclear how elevated endothelial progranulin levels influence vascular growth in vivo. To address this issue, we generated mice with progranulin expression targeted specifically to developing endothelial cells using a Tie2-promoter/enhancer construct. Three Tie2-Grn mouse lines were generated with varying Tie2-Grn copy number, and were called GrnLo, GrnMid, and GrnHi. All three lines showed increased mortality that correlates with Tie2-Grn copy number, with greatest mortality and lowest germline transmission in the GrnHi line. Death of the transgenic animals occurred around birth, and continued for three days after birth. Those that survived beyond day 3 survived into adulthood. Transgenic neonates that died showed vascular abnormalities of varying severity. Some exhibited bleeding into body cavities such as the pericardial space. Smaller localized hemorrhages were seen in many organs. Blood vessels were often dilated and thin-walled. To establish the development of these abnormalities, we examined mice at early (E10.5-14.5) and later (E15.5-17.5) developmental phases. Early events during vasculogenesis appear unaffected by Tie2-Grn as apparently normal primary vasculature had been established at E10.5. The earliest onset of vascular abnormality was at E15.5, with focal cerebral hemorrhage and enlarged vessels in various organs. Aberrant Tie2-Grn positive vessels showed thinning of the basement membrane and reduced investiture with mural cells. We conclude that progranulin promotes exaggerated vessel growth in vivo, with subsequent effects in the formation of the mural cell layer and weakening of vessel integrity. These results demonstrate that overexpression of progranulin in endothelial cells influences normal angiogenesis in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / abnormalities
  • Blood Vessels / embryology
  • Blood Vessels / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / embryology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression*
  • Gene Order
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Granulins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Placenta / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Progranulins
  • Receptor, TIE-2 / genetics
  • Transgenes
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / metabolism


  • Granulins
  • Grn protein, mouse
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Progranulins
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Receptor, TIE-2
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2