Notch expression patterns in the retina: An eye on receptor-ligand distribution during angiogenesis.
- Jennifer J Hofmann, M Luisa Iruela-Arispe
- Gene expression patterns : GEP
During vascular development, Notch signalling plays important roles in cell-cell communication and cell fate decisions. We studied expression of Notch 1-4 and its ligand Delta-like 4 (Dll4) in the developing retinal vasculature. Dll4 mRNA is strongly expressed in endothelial cells at the very tips of growing vessels ('tip cells') and also in arteries, where it is expressed in a segmented 'tiger's tail' pattern. This implies that developing retinal arteries contain different types of endothelial cells, Dll4-positive and Dll4-negative. The Dll4-positive stripes do not correspond to any obvious morphological property of the vascular network but correlate to some extent with the distribution of platelet derived growth factor B (PDGF-B) mRNA. However, PDGF-B expression is neither as artery-specific nor as clearly segmented as Dll4. Possible target cells for Dll4 signalling are retinal astrocytes (Notch1 positive), arterial pericytes (Notch3 positive) or arterial endothelial cells themselves (Notch4 positive). However, there is no clear reciprocity of Notch and Dll4 expression that allows identification of the interacting cells. Nevertheless, Dll4 stripes are a novel property of immature arteries, the origin and function of which remain to be explained.