Molecular heterogeneity of the vascular endothelium revealed by in vivo phage display

J Clin Invest. 1998 Jul 15;102(2):430-7. doi: 10.1172/JCI3008.


Vascular beds are known to differ in structure and metabolic function, but less is known about their molecular diversity. We have studied organ-specific molecular differences of the endothelium in various tissues by using in vivo screening of peptide libraries expressed on the surface of a bacteriophage. We report here that targeting of a large number of tissues with this method yielded, in each case, phage that homed selectively to the targeted organ. Different peptide motifs were recovered from each of these tissues. The enrichment in homing to the target organs relative to an unselected phage was 3-35-fold. Peptide sequences that conferred selective phage homing to the vasculature of lung, skin, and pancreas were characterized in detail. Immunohistochemistry showed that the phage localized in the blood vessels of their target organ. When tested, the phage homing was blocked in the presence of the cognate peptide. By targeting several tissues and by showing that specific homing could be achieved in each case, we provide evidence that organ- and tissue-specific molecular heterogeneity of the vasculature is a general, perhaps even universal, phenomenon. Our results also show that these molecular differences can serve as molecular addresses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriophages*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Peptide Library*
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism


  • Peptide Library
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins