VE-Cadherin-Mediated Epigenetic Regulation of Endothelial Gene Expression
Rationale: The mechanistic foundation of vascular maturation is still largely unknown. Several human pathologies are characterized by deregulated angiogenesis and unstable blood vessels. Solid tumours, for instance, get their nourishment from newly formed structurally abnormal vessels which present wide and irregular inter-endothelial junctions. Expression and clustering of the main endothelial-specific adherens junction protein, vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin (VEC), upregulate genes with key roles in endothelial differentiation and stability.
Objective: We aim at understanding the molecular mechanisms through which VEC triggers the expression of a set of genes involved in endothelial differentiation and vascular stabilization.
Methods and Results: We compared a VEC-null cell line with the same line reconstituted with VEC wild type cDNA. VEC expression and clustering upregulated endothelial-specific genes with key roles in vascular stabilization including claudin-5, Vascular Endothelial-Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase (VE-PTP) and von Willebrand factor (vWf). Mechanistically VEC exerts this effect by inhibiting Polycomb protein activity on the specific gene promoters. This is achieved by preventing nuclear translocation of FoxO1 and β-catenin, which contribute to Polycomb repressive complex-2 (PRC2) binding to promoter regions of claudin-5, VE-PTP and vWf. VE-cadherin/β-catenin complex also sequesters a core subunit of PRC2 (Ezh2) at the cell membrane, preventing its nuclear translocation. Inhibition of Ezh2/VE-cadherin association increases Ezh2 recruitment to claudin-5, VE-PTP and vWf promoters, causing gene downregulation. RNA-seq comparison of VEC-null and VEC-positive cells suggested a more general role of VE-cadherin in activating endothelial genes and triggering a vascular stability-related gene expression program. In pathological angiogenesis of human ovarian carcinomas, reduced VEC expression paralleled decreased levels of Claudin-5 and VE-PTP.
Conclusions: These data extend the knowledge of Polycomb-mediated regulation of gene expression to endothelial cell differentiation and vessel maturation. The identified mechanism opens novel therapeutic opportunities to modulate endothelial gene expression and induce vascular normalization through pharmacological inhibition of the Polycomb-mediated repression system.
- endothelial junctions
- vessel maturation
- gene regulation
- vascular biology
- endothelial cell
- cell signaling
- vascular permeability
- Received November 14, 2017.
- Revision received November 30, 2017.
- Accepted December 11, 2017.
Circulation Research is published on behalf of the American Heart Association, Inc., by Wolters Kluwer. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work is properly cited.