Constitutively active PIK3CA mutations are expressed by lymphatic and vascular endothelial cells in capillary lymphatic venous malformation

Angiogenesis. 2020 Aug;23(3):425-442. doi: 10.1007/s10456-020-09722-0. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Capillary lymphatic venous malformations (CLVM) are complex vascular anomalies characterized by aberrant and enlarged lymphatic and blood vessels. CLVM appear during fetal development and enlarge after birth, causing life-long complications such as coagulopathy, pulmonary embolism, chronic pain, and disfigurement. Treatment includes surgical debulking, amputation, and recurrent sclerotherapy. Somatic, mosaic mutations in the 110-kD catalytic α-subunit of phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PIK3CA) gene have been previously identified in affected tissues from CLVM patients; however, the cell population harboring the mutation is still unknown. In this study, we hypothesized that endothelial cells (EC) carry the PIK3CA mutations and play a major role in the cellular origin of CLVM. We isolated EC from the lesions of seven patients with CLVM and identified PIK3CA hotspot mutations. The CLVM EC exhibited constitutive phosphorylation of the PI3K effector AKT as well as hyperproliferation and increased resistance to cell death compared to normal EC. Inhibitors of PIK3CA (BYL719) and AKT (ARQ092) attenuated the proliferation of CLVM EC in a dose-dependent manner. A xenograft model of CLVM was developed by injecting patient-derived EC into the flanks of immunocompromised mice. CLVM EC formed lesions with enlarged lymphatic and vascular channels, recapitulating the patient histology. EC subpopulations were further obtained by both immunomagnetic separation into lymphatic EC (LEC) and vascular EC (VEC) and generation of clonal populations. By sequencing these subpopulations, we determined that both LEC and VEC from the same patient express the PIK3CA mutation, exhibit increased AKT activation and can form lymphatic or vascular lesions in mouse.

Keywords: AKT; Endothelial cell; Lymphatic malformation; PI3K; Patient-derived xenograft; Vascular; Vascular anomaly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Capillaries / abnormalities*
  • Capillaries / enzymology
  • Capillaries / pathology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases* / genetics
  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells* / enzymology
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lymphatic Vessels* / abnormalities
  • Lymphatic Vessels* / enzymology
  • Lymphatic Vessels* / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mutation*
  • Vascular Malformations* / enzymology
  • Vascular Malformations* / genetics
  • Vascular Malformations* / pathology


  • Class I Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PIK3CA protein, human

Supplementary concepts

  • Capillary Malformations, Congenital, 1