Vascular Heterogeneity With a Special Focus on the Hepatic Microenvironment

Front Physiol. 2020 Nov 11;11:591901. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.591901. eCollection 2020.


Utilizing single-cell sequencing, recent studies were able to analyze at a greater resolution the heterogeneity of the vasculature and its complex composition in different tissues. Differing subpopulations have been detected, distinguishable only by their transcriptome. Designed to provide further insight into the heterogeneity of the functional vascular tissue, endothelial cells have been the main target of those studies. This review aims to present a synopsis of the variability of the different vascular beds, their endothelial variety, and the supporting cells that allow the vessels to serve their various purposes. Firstly, we are going to chart vascular tissue heterogeneity on a cellular level, describing endothelial diversity as well as stromal microenvironmental variety and interaction in a physiological setting. Secondly, we will summarize the current knowledge of pathological vessel formation in the context of cancer. Conventional anti-tumor therapeutic targets as well as anti-angiogenetic therapy is frequently limited by poor response of the tumor tissue. Reasons for moderate response and resistance to treatment can be found through different drivers of angiogenesis, different mechanisms of blood supply, but also in poorly understood tissue diversity. Based on this, we are comparing how pathologies alter the normal structure of vascular tissues highlighting the involved mechanisms. Lastly, illustrating the concept above, we will focus on the hepatic microenvironment, an organ of frequent metastatic spreading (e.g., from colorectal, breast, and lung cancers). We will address how the hepatic vasculature usually develops and subsequently we will describe how common liver metastases vary in their vasculature and the way they supply themselves (e.g., angiogenesis versus vessel co-option).

Keywords: angiogenesis; heterogeneity; liver metastases; microenvironment; vasculature; vessel co-option.

Publication types

  • Review