In experiments with mice, a research team led by Johns Hopkins scientists has discovered an unusual protein pair that stops blood vessels' growth in the developing back. Results of the studies, published today in the express online edition of Science, are of special interest to researchers trying to prevent blood flow that nourishes tumors or exploit the signals vessels emit during growth to help regrow damaged nerves.
During an animal's prenatal development, protein "signs" tell growing blood vessels which way to go and when to stop or turn back. Scientists already knew that one big family of "stop" proteins works by binding to two proteins, called receptors, on the leading edge of a budding blood vessel. In new experiments, the Hopkins-led team reports on one member of this family of proteins that works differently from the others.
"Unlike all of the others in this group, called semaphorins, this protein only needs one protein receptor partner," says lead author Chenghua Gu, D.V.M., Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience in Hopkins' Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "It's a totally new observation of blood vessel growth in development, and it has made us rethink how the semaphorins control this process."
Semaphorins float freely in tissues adjacent to blood vessels and nerves and stop them from migrating into inappropriate areas. Although the protein the team studied, known as Sema3E, belongs to this family, its binding partners and exact job were unclear until now.
Gu and others from the laboratories of Hopkins neuroscience professors Alex Kolodkin, Ph.D., and David Ginty, Ph.D., engineered a version of Sema3E that colors its binding partner blue. They found that the resulting blue pattern on the developing mice looked suspiciously like the pattern of plexin-D1, a previously described protein found in blood vessels and nerves.
To prove that this was indeed Sema3E's binding partner, the researchers inser
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