The assembly of a functional vascular system requires a coordinated and dynamic transition from activation to maturation. High vascular endothelial growth factor activity promotes activation, including junction destabilization and cell motility. Maturation involves junctional stabilization and formation of a functional endothelial barrier. The identity and mechanism of action of prostabilization signals are still mostly unknown. Bone morphogenetic protein receptors and their ligands have important functions during embryonic vessel assembly and maturation. Previous work has suggested a role for growth differentiation factor 6 (GDF6; bone morphogenetic protein 13) in vascular integrity although GDF6’s mechanism of action was not clear. Therefore, we sought to further explore the requirement for GDF6 in vascular stabilization.Approach and Results—
We investigated the role of GDF6 in promoting endothelial vascular integrity in vivo in zebrafish and in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells in vitro. We report that GDF6 promotes vascular integrity by counteracting vascular endothelial growth factor activity. GDF6-deficient endothelium has increased vascular endothelial growth factor signaling, increased vascular endothelial-cadherin Y658 phosphorylation, vascular endothelial-cadherin delocalization from cell–cell interfaces, and weakened endothelial cell adherence junctions that become prone to vascular leak.Conclusions—
Our results suggest that GDF6 promotes vascular stabilization by restraining vascular endothelial growth factor signaling. Understanding how GDF6 affects vascular integrity may help to provide insights into hemorrhage and associated vascular pathologies in humans.