EphA4 Regulates Central Nervous System Vascular Formation

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Molecules involved in axon guidance have recently also been shown to play a role in blood vessel guidance. To examine whether axon guidance molecules, such as the EphA4 receptor tyrosine kinase, might also play a role in development of the central nervous system (CNS) vasculature and repair following CNS injury, we examined wild-type and EphA4 null mutant (−/−) mice. EphA4−/− mice exhibited an abnormal CNS vascular structure in both the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord, with disorganized branching and a 30% smaller diameter. During development, EphA4 was expressed on endothelial cells. This pattern of expression was not maintained in the adult. After spinal cord injury in wild-type mice, expression of EphA4 was markedly up-regulated on activated astrocytes, many of which were tightly associated with blood vessels. In EphA4−/− spinal cord following injury, astrocytes were not as tightly associated with blood vessels as the wild-type astrocytes. In uninjured EphA4−/− mice, the blood–brain barrier (BBB) appeared normal, but it showed prolonged leakage following spinal cord injury. These results support a role for EphA4 in CNS vascular formation and guidance during development and an additional role in BBB repair. J. Comp. Neurol. 497:864–875, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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