Analysis of blood vessel maturation processes during cyclic ovarian angiogenesis

Lab Invest. 1998 Nov;78(11):1385-94.


Cyclic angiogenic processes in the ovarian corpus luteum (CL) of monovulatory species are characterized by distinct phases of blood vessel growth, vessel maturation, and vessel regression. To characterize molecular and cellular systems that may play a role in regulating blood vessel maturation, we have (a) analyzed the spatiotemporal expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors VEGF-R1 (Flt-1) and VEGF-R2 (Flk-1) throughout the ovarian cycle, (b) examined the recruitment of pericytes during vessel maturation, and (c) quantitatively measured the ratio of angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) to angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) throughout the ovarian cycle. The data indicate that the VEGF/VEGF-receptor system is expressed not only during ovarian angiogenesis, but also with similar intensity in the nonangiogenic midstage CL. In fact, VEGF is expressed through most of the ovarian cycle, only being down-regulated during luteolysis, which leads to regression of the CL neovasculature. Pericytes are recruited soon after the induction of CL angiogenesis following the front of invading endothelial cells. Based on a double-staining immunohistochemistry technique, we developed a microvessel maturation index (MMI) that reflects the percentage of the capillary neovasculature that is associated with pericytes. The MMI in the angiogenic corpus rubrum is approximately 0.60. This value is not significantly higher in the nonangiogenic midstage CL but increases to close to 0.90 during CL regression. Lastly, an RT-PCR analysis of Ang-1 and Ang-2 expression revealed that both molecules are expressed throughout the ovarian cycle. The quantitative Ang-2/Ang-1 ratio does, however, change from 1.34 in the angiogenic CL and 1.07 in the midstage CL to 7.59 during CL regression, reflecting the strong overexpression of Ang-2 over Ang-1 during blood vessel regression. Taken together, the data support a model of a transiently maturated vasculature in the midstage CL, which is characterized by VEGF and pericyte contact-mediated endothelial cell survival and an induction of blood vessel regression during luteolysis that is characterized by the down-regulation of VEGF and the up-regulation of Ang-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiopoietin-1
  • Angiopoietin-2
  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / growth & development
  • Cattle
  • Corpus Luteum / metabolism
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / genetics
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Estrus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Lymphokines / genetics
  • Lymphokines / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Ovary / blood supply*
  • Pericytes / physiology
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Angiopoietin-1
  • Angiopoietin-2
  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Lymphokines
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor