Endothelin axis induces metalloproteinase activation and invasiveness in human lymphatic endothelial cells

Francesca Spinella, Valentina Caprara, Emirena Garrafa, Valeriana Di Castro, Laura Rosanò, Pier Giorgio Natali, Anna Bagnato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The molecular mechanisms involved in lymphangiogenesis were unknown until recently. We previously demonstrated that the endothelin1 (ET1) axis stimulates lymphatic endothelial cells (LEC) and lymphatic vessels to grow and invade. Here we further investigated the effect of ET-1 on lymphatic vessels and evaluated whether ET-1 actions result in the functional activation of lymphangiogenesis. Using highly purified human LEC, characterized for the expession of ET-1 axis members by quantitative real-time PCR, we found that the endothelin B receptor (ETB), upon activation by ET-1, induced matrix-metalloproteinase activation, demonstrating that ET-1 influenced the activity of the proteolytic enzymes required for LEC invasion. Functional assays performed by using intradermal lymphangiography demonstrated that ET-1 promoted the formation of lymphatic vessels and that these vessels were capable of lymphatic flow. ETB blockade with the specific antagonist BQ788 inhibited matrix-metalloproteinase activation and dye transport within the lymphatic vessels, demonstrating that ETB is involved in the regulation of the growth of and in the formation of functional vessels upon activation by ET-1. Our results suggest that ET-1 is a lymphangiogenic mediator and that targeting pharmacologically ETB may be therapeutically exploited in a variety of diseases, including cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-787
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Endothelin B receptor
  • Endothelin-1
  • Lymphangiogenesis
  • Lymphatic endothelial cells
  • Lymphatic vessels
  • Matrix metalloproteinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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