Contact-dependent inhibition of angiogenesis by cardiac fibroblasts in three-dimensional fibrin gels in vitro: implications for microvascular network remodeling and coronary collateral formation

Cell Tissue Res. 1998 Sep;293(3):479-88. doi: 10.1007/s004410051140.


Angiogenesis and coronary artery collateral formation can improve blood flow and thereby prevent myocardial ischemia. The role of perivascular fibroblasts in neovascularization remains incompletely understood. Here we investigated the effects of epicardial and myocardial fibroblasts on angiogenesis in vitro by using a serum-free microcarrier-based fibrin gel angiogenesis system. To clearly distinguish between different cell types, we either stained endothelial cells or fibroblasts in the living with 1, 1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethyl-indocarbocyanine-perchlorate (DiI). In cocultures, low numbers of heart fibroblasts stimulated endothelial sprouting, and capillary growth was also induced by fibroblast-conditioned media, indicating a paracrine mechanism. Capillary formation was decreased by increasing the density of fibroblasts in the cocultures, indicating contact-dependent inhibition. Using time-lapse studies, it turned out that close contacts between fibroblasts and endothelial cells resulted in rapid retraction of endothelial cells or, rarely, in cell death. Depending on the local ratio of fibroblasts to endothelial cell numbers, fibroblasts determined the location of capillary growth and the size of developing capillaries and thereby contributed to capillary network remodeling. In contrast to primary heart fibroblasts, NIH 3T3 fibroblasts did not display contact-dependent inhibition of endothelial sprouts. NIH fibroblasts were frequently seen in close association with endothelial capillaries, resembling pericytes. Contact-dependent inhibition of angiogenesis by epicardial fibroblasts could not be reversed by addition of neutralizing anti-TGF-beta1 antibodies, by addition of serum, of medium conditioned by hypoxic tumor cells or myocardium, by various cytokines or by growing cocultures under hypoxic conditions. Our results implicate a pivotal role of periendothelial mesenchymal cells for the regulation of microvascular network remodeling and collateral formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbocyanines
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Collateral Circulation / physiology*
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology
  • Coronary Vessels / physiology*
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology
  • Fibrin / physiology*
  • Fibroblasts
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Myocardium / cytology*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Swine


  • Carbocyanines
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Gels
  • 3,3'-dioctadecylindocarbocyanine
  • Fibrin