Researchers have identified a signaling pathway that is essential for the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. This can be used to improve blood flow in ischemic tissue which will help with fixing atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and peripheral vascular disease associated with diabetes.
The formation of endothelial lumen is fundamental to angiogenesis and essential to the oxygenation of hypoxic tissues. The molecular mechanism underlying this important process remains obscure. Here, we show that Akt activation by a Ras homolog, R-Ras, stabilizes the microtubule cytoskeleton in endothelial cells leading to endothelial lumenogenesis. The activation of Akt by the potent angiogenic factor VEGF-A does not strongly stabilize microtubules or sufficiently promote lumen formation, hence demonstrating a distinct role for the R-Ras-Akt axis. We show in mice that this pathway is important for the lumenization of new capillaries and microvessels developing in ischemic muscles to allow sufficient tissue reperfusion after ischemic injury. Our work identifies a role for Akt in lumenogenesis and the significance of the R-Ras-Akt signaling for the patency of regenerating blood vessels.