Guided migration as a novel mechanism of capillary network remodeling is regulated by basic fibroblast growth factor

Histochem Cell Biol. 1998 Apr;109(4):319-29. doi: 10.1007/s004180050232.


To investigate mechanisms of capillary network remodeling, we developed a serum-free angiogenesis in vitro system in three-dimensional fibrin matrices which allows the study of directional growth of endothelial sprouts, anastomosis, and remodeling ('pruning') of the primitive plexus toward more elaborated capillary trees. To follow the movements of living endothelial cells by inverse-fluorescence microscopy, we cocultured unlabeled endothelial cells with endothelial cells labeled with the carbocyanine dye 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI). We show that elongation and retraction of neighboring capillary sprouts occurs simultaneously, resembling a tug-of-war by which endothelial cells are withdrawn from shortening sprouts to become incorporated in other sprouts nearby. For the first time, we directly demonstrate the long-suspected parallel sliding movement of endothelial cells. We show that cell migration persists within immature capillaries even after sprouts have merged to continuous capillary loops, leading to overlapping growth of opposing sprout tips. As a novel concept of capillary remodeling, we distinguish two types of endothelial cell migration: sprouting and guided migration. Sprouting is the de novo invasion of a matrix by endothelial cells, and guided migration is the locomotion of cells along preexistent capillary-like structures. We show that guided migration leads to remodeling of immature capillary networks and to the retraction of sprouts. We describe a method for quantification of sprouting versus guided migration in DiI-mosaic-labeled capillary networks, and we present evidence that endothelial cell-derived basic fibroblast growth factor serves as a chemotactic signal for other cells to migrate along a preestablished capillary-like structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capillaries / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Swine


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2