Adaptable haemodynamic endothelial cells for organogenesis and tumorigenesis

Nature. 2020 Sep;585(7825):426-432. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2712-z. Epub 2020 Sep 9.


Endothelial cells adopt tissue-specific characteristics to instruct organ development and regeneration1,2. This adaptability is lost in cultured adult endothelial cells, which do not vascularize tissues in an organotypic manner. Here, we show that transient reactivation of the embryonic-restricted ETS variant transcription factor 2 (ETV2)3 in mature human endothelial cells cultured in a serum-free three-dimensional matrix composed of a mixture of laminin, entactin and type-IV collagen (LEC matrix) 'resets' these endothelial cells to adaptable, vasculogenic cells, which form perfusable and plastic vascular plexi. Through chromatin remodelling, ETV2 induces tubulogenic pathways, including the activation of RAP1, which promotes the formation of durable lumens4,5. In three-dimensional matrices-which do not have the constraints of bioprinted scaffolds-the 'reset' vascular endothelial cells (R-VECs) self-assemble into stable, multilayered and branching vascular networks within scalable microfluidic chambers, which are capable of transporting human blood. In vivo, R-VECs implanted subcutaneously in mice self-organize into durable pericyte-coated vessels that functionally anastomose to the host circulation and exhibit long-lasting patterning, with no evidence of malformations or angiomas. R-VECs directly interact with cells within three-dimensional co-cultured organoids, removing the need for the restrictive synthetic semipermeable membranes that are required for organ-on-chip systems, therefore providing a physiological platform for vascularization, which we call 'Organ-On-VascularNet'. R-VECs enable perfusion of glucose-responsive insulin-secreting human pancreatic islets, vascularize decellularized rat intestines and arborize healthy or cancerous human colon organoids. Using single-cell RNA sequencing and epigenetic profiling, we demonstrate that R-VECs establish an adaptive vascular niche that differentially adjusts and conforms to organoids and tumoroids in a tissue-specific manner. Our Organ-On-VascularNet model will permit metabolic, immunological and physiochemical studies and screens to decipher the crosstalk between organotypic endothelial cells and parenchymal cells for identification of determinants of endothelial cell heterogeneity, and could lead to advances in therapeutic organ repair and tumour targeting.

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 / growth & development
  • Carcinogenesis*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epigenomics
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Islets of Langerhans / blood supply
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Organogenesis*
  • Organoids / blood supply*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcriptome


  • Chromatin
  • ETV2 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors