Heart and Circulatory Physiology

VEGF promotes vascular sympathetic innervation

Stephen B. Marko, Deborah H. Damon


The sympathetic nervous system, via postganglionic innervation of blood vessels and the heart, is an important determinant of cardiovascular function. The mechanisms underlying sympathetic innervation of targets are not fully understood. This study tests the hypothesis that target-derived vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) promotes sympathetic innervation of blood vessels. Western blot and immunohistochemical analyses indicate that VEGF is produced by vascular cells in arteries and that VEGF receptors are expressed on sympathetic nerve fibers innervating arteries. In vitro, exogenously added VEGF and VEGF produced by vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in sympathetic neurovascular cocultures inhibited semaphorin 3A (Sema3A)-induced collapse of sympathetic growth cones. In the absence of Sema3A, VEGF and VSMCs also increased growth cone area. These effects were mediated via VEGF receptor 1. In vivo, the neutralization of VEGF inhibited the reinnervation of denervated femoral arteries. These data demonstrate that target-derived VEGF plays a previously unrecognized role in promoting the growth of sympathetic axons.

  • axon growth
  • sympathetic nervous system
  • vascular smooth muscle
  • vascular endothelial growth factor
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