VEGF Receptor Signal Transduction
The family of vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) currently includes VEGF-A, -B, -C, -D, -E, and placenta growth factor (PlGF). Several of these factors, notably VEGF-A, exist as different isoforms, which appear to have unique biological functions. The VEGF family proteins bind in a distinct pattern to three structurally related receptor tyrosine kinases, denoted VEGF receptor-1, -2, and -3. Neuropilins, heparan-sulfated proteoglycans, cadherins, and integrin alphavbeta3 serve as coreceptors for certain but not all VEGF proteins. Moreover, the angiogenic response to VEGF varies between different organs and is dependent on the genetic background of the animal. Inactivation of the genes for VEGF-A and VEGF receptor-2 leads to embryonal death due to the lack of endothelial cells. Inactivation of the gene encoding VEGF receptor-1 leads to an increased number of endothelial cells, which obstruct the vessel lumen. Inactivation of VEGF receptor-3 leads to abnormally organized vessels and cardiac failure. Although VEGF receptor-3 normally is expressed only on lymphatic endothelial cells, it is up-regulated on vascular as well as nonvascular tumors and appears to be involved in the regulation of angiogenesis. A large body of data, such as those on gene inactivation, indicate that VEGF receptor-1 exerts a negative regulatory effect on VEGF receptor-2, at least during embryogenesis. Recent data imply a positive regulatory role for VEGF receptor-1 in pathological angiogenesis. The VEGF proteins are in general poor mitogens, but binding of VEGF-A to VEGF receptor-2 leads to survival, migration, and differentiation of endothelial cells and mediation of vascular permeability. This review outlines the current knowledge about the signal transduction properties of VEGF receptors, with focus on VEGF receptor-2.