Author(s): Dvorak HF
VPF/VEGF is a multifunctional cytokine that contributes to angiogenesis by both direct and indirect mechanisms. On the one hand, VPF/VEGF stimulates the ECs lining nearby microvessels to proliferate, to migrate, and to alter their pattern of gene expression. On the other hand, VPF/VEGF renders these same microvascular ECs hyperpermeable so that they spill plasma proteins into the extravascular space, leading to the clotting of extravasated fibrinogen with deposition of a fibrin gel. Extravascular fibrin serves as a provisional matrix that favors and supports the ingrowth of new blood vessels and other mesenchymal cells that generate mature, vascularized stroma. These same principles apply in tumors, in several examples of non-neoplastic pathology, and in physiological processes that involve angiogenesis and new stroma generation. In all of these examples, microvascular hyperpermeability and the introduction of a provisional, plasma-derived matrix precede and accompany the onset of EC division and new blood vessel formation. It would seem, therefore, that tumors have "borrowed" fundamental mechanisms that developed in multicellular organisms for purposes of tissue defense, renewal, and repair. VPF/VEGF, therefore has taught us something new about angiogenesis; namely, that vascular hyperpermeability and consequent plasma protein extravasation are important, perhaps essential, elements in its generation. However, this finding raises a paradox. While VPF/VEGF induces vascular hyperpermeability, other potent angiogenic factors apparently do not, at least in subtoxic concentrations that are more than sufficient to induce angiogenesis. Nonetheless, wherever angiogenesis has been studied, the newly generated vessels have been found to be hyperpermeable. How, therefore, do angiogenic factors other than VPF/VEGF lead to the formation of new and leaky blood vessels? We do not as yet have a complete answer to this question. One possibility is that at least some angiogenic factors mediate their effect by inducing or stimulating the expression of VPF/VEGF. In fact, there is already one clear example of this. TGF-alpha is a potent angiogenic factor but does not itself increase microvascular permeability. However, TGF-alpha strikingly upregulates VPF/VEGF expression in cultured keratinocytes and is thought to be responsible, at least in part, for the overexpression of VPF/VEGF in psoriasis. Moreover, overexpression of TGF-alpha, along with that of the EGF receptor with which it interacts, is characteristic of many malignant tumors, raising the possibility that TGF-alpha acts to stimulate VPF/VEGF expression in other types of epithelial cells and in this manner induces angiogenesis.