Indexed on: 09 Aug '15Published on: 09 Aug '15Published in: Development (Cambridge, England)
The Rho family of small GTPases has been shown to be required in endothelial cells (ECs) during blood vessel formation. However, the underlying cellular events controlled by different GTPases remain unclear. Here, we assess the cellular mechanisms by which Cdc42 regulates mammalian vascular morphogenesis and maintenance. In vivo deletion of Cdc42 in embryonic ECs (Cdc42(Tie2KO)) results in blocked lumen formation and endothelial tearing, leading to lethality of mutant embryos by E9-10 due to failed blood circulation. Similarly, inducible deletion of Cdc42 (Cdc42(Cad5KO)) at mid-gestation blocks angiogenic tubulogenesis. By contrast, deletion of Cdc42 in postnatal retinal vessels leads to aberrant vascular remodeling and sprouting, as well as markedly reduced filopodia formation. We find that Cdc42 is essential for organization of EC adhesion, as its loss results in disorganized cell-cell junctions and reduced focal adhesions. Endothelial polarity is also rapidly lost upon Cdc42 deletion, as seen by failed localization of apical podocalyxin (PODXL) and basal actin. We link observed failures to a defect in F-actin organization, both in vitro and in vivo, which secondarily impairs EC adhesion and polarity. We also identify Cdc42 effectors Pak2/4 and N-WASP, as well as the actomyosin machinery, to be crucial for EC actin organization. This work supports the notion of Cdc42 as a central regulator of the cellular machinery in ECs that drives blood vessel formation.