Endothelial tubes assemble from intracellular vacuoles in vivo. Academic Article uri icon


  • The formation of epithelial tubes is crucial for the proper development of many different tissues and organs, and occurs by means of a variety of different mechanisms. Morphogenesis of seamless, properly patterned endothelial tubes is essential for the development of a functional vertebrate circulatory system, but the mechanism of vascular lumenization in vivo remains unclear. Evidence dating back more than 100 years has hinted at an important function for endothelial vacuoles in lumen formation. More than 25 years ago, in some of the first endothelial cell culture experiments in vitro, Folkman and Haudenschild described "longitudinal vacuoles" that "appeared to be extruded and connected from one cell to the next", observations confirmed and extended by later studies in vitro showing that intracellular vacuoles arise from integrin-dependent and cdc42/Rac1-dependent pinocytic events downstream of integrin-extracellular-matrix signalling interactions. Despite compelling data supporting a model for the assembly of endothelial tubes in vitro through the formation and fusion of vacuoles, conclusive evidence in vivo has been lacking, primarily because of difficulties associated with imaging the dynamics of subcellular endothelial vacuoles deep within living animals. Here we use high-resolution time-lapse two-photon imaging of transgenic zebrafish to examine how endothelial tubes assemble in vivo, comparing our results with time-lapse imaging of human endothelial-cell tube formation in three-dimensional collagen matrices in vitro. Our results provide strong support for a model in which the formation and intracellular and intercellular fusion of endothelial vacuoles drives vascular lumen formation.

published proceedings

  • Nature

altmetric score

  • 18.844

author list (cited authors)

  • Kamei, M., Saunders, W. B., Bayless, K. J., Dye, L., Davis, G. E., & Weinstein, B. M.

citation count

  • 405

complete list of authors

  • Kamei, Makoto||Saunders, W Brian||Bayless, Kayla J||Dye, Louis||Davis, George E||Weinstein, Brant M

publication date

  • January 2006

published in