The vascular system is locally specialized to accommodate widely varying blood flow and pressure and the distinct needs of individual tissues. The endothelial cells (ECs) that line the lumens of blood and lymphatic vessels play an integral role in the regional specialization of vascular structure and physiology. However, our understanding of EC diversity is limited. To explore EC specialization on a global scale, we used DNA microarrays to determine the expression profile of 53 cultured ECs. We found that ECs from different blood vessels and microvascular ECs from different tissues have distinct and characteristic gene expression profiles. Pervasive differences in gene expression patterns distinguish the ECs of large vessels from microvascular ECs. We identified groups of genes characteristic of arterial and venous endothelium. Hey2, the human homologue of the zebrafish gene gridlock, was selectively expressed in arterial ECs and induced the expression of several arterial-specific genes. Several genes critical in the establishment of left/right asymmetry were expressed preferentially in venous ECs, suggesting coordination between vascular differentiation and body plan development. Tissue-specific expression patterns in different tissue microvascular ECs suggest they are distinct differentiated cell types that play roles in the local physiology of their respective organs and tissues.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1434429100
View details for PubMedID 12963823