FOXF1 Transcription Factor Is Required for Formation of Embryonic Vasculature by Regulating VEGF Signaling in Endothelial Cells
Rationale: Inactivating mutations in the FOXF1 gene locus are frequently found in patients with Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia with Misalignment of Pulmonary Veins (ACD/MPV), a lethal congenital disorder, which is characterized by severe abnormalities in the respiratory, cardio-vascular and gastro-intestinal systems. In mice, haploinsufficiency of the Foxf1 gene causes alveolar capillary dysplasia and developmental defects in lung, intestinal and gall bladder morphogenesis.
Objective: While FOXF1 is expressed in multiple mesenchyme-derived cell types, cellular origins and molecular mechanisms of developmental abnormalities in FOXF1-deficient mice and ACD/MPV patients remain uncharacterized due to lack of mouse models with cell-restricted inactivation of the Foxf1 gene. In the present study, the role of FOXF1 in endothelial cells was examined using a conditional knockout approach.
Methods and Results: A novel mouse line harboring Foxf1-floxed alleles was generated by homologous recombination. Tie2-Cre and Pdgfb-CreER transgenes were used to delete Foxf1 from endothelial cells. FOXF1-deficient embryos exhibited embryonic lethality, growth retardation, polyhydramnios, cardiac ventricular hypoplasia and vascular abnormalities in the lung, placenta, yolk sac and retina. Deletion of FOXF1 from endothelial cells reduced endothelial proliferation, increased apoptosis, inhibited VEGF signaling and decreased expression of endothelial genes critical for vascular development, including VEGF receptors Flt1 and Flk1, Pdgfb, Pecam1, CD34, integrin β3, ephrin B2, Tie2 and the non-coding RNA Fendrr. ChIP assay demonstrated that Flt1, Flk1, Pdgfb, Pecam1 and Tie2 genes are direct transcriptional targets of FOXF1.
Conclusions: FOXF1 is required for formation of embryonic vasculature by regulating endothelial genes critical for vascular development and VEGF signaling.
- endothelial cells
- vascular development
- pulmonary circulation
- developmental biology
- gene regulation
- genetically altered mice
- Received May 14, 2014.
- Revision received July 30, 2014.
- Accepted August 4, 2014.