Targeting angiogenesis: Structural characterization and biological properties of a de novo engineered VEGF mimicking peptide

Luca Domenico D'Andrea, Guido Iaccarino, Roberto Fattorusso, Daniela Sorriento, Concetta Carannante, Domenica Capasso, Bruno Trimarco, Carlo Pedone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Modulating angiogenesis is an attractive goal because many pathological conditions depend on the growth of new vessels. Angiogenesis is mainly regulated by the VEGF, a mitogen specific for endothelial cells. In the last years, many efforts have been pursued to modulate the angiogenic response targeting VEGF and its receptors. Based on the x-ray structure of VEGF bound to the receptor, we designed a peptide, QK, reproducing a region of the VEGF binding interface: the helix region 17-25. NMR conformation analysis of QK revealed that it adopts a helical conformation in water, whereas the peptide corresponding to the α-helix region of VEGF, VEGF15, is unstructured. Biological assays in vitro and on bovine aorta endothelial cells suggested that QK binds to the VEGF receptors and competes with VEGF. VEGF15 did not bind to the receptors indicating that the helical structure is necessary for the biological activity. Furthermore, QK induced endothelial cells proliferation, activated cell signaling dependent on VEGF, and increased the VEGF biological response. QK promoted capillary formation and organization in an in vitro assay on matrigel. These results suggested that the helix region 17-25 of VEGF is involved in VEGF receptor activation. The peptide designed to resemble this region shares numerous biological properties of VEGF, thus suggesting that this region is of potential interest for biomedical applications, and molecules mimicking it could be attractive for therapeutic and diagnostic applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14215-14220
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - Oct 4 2005



  • Angiogenesis
  • Helical peptides
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • Peptide design
  • VEGF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

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