Human endothelial cells are induced to form an anastomosing network of capillary tubes on a gel of collagen I in the presence of PMA. We show here that the addition of mAbs, AK7, or RMAC11 directed to the alpha chain of the major collagen receptor on endothelial cells, the integrin alpha 2 beta 1, enhance the number, length, and width of capillary tubes formed by endothelial cells derived from umbilical vein or neonatal foreskins. The anti-alpha 2 beta 1 antibodies maintained the endothelial cells in a rounded morphology and inhibited both their attachment to and proliferation on collagen but not on fibronectin, laminin, or gelatin matrices. Furthermore, RMAC11 promoted tube formation in collagen gels of increased density which in the absence of RMAC11 did not allow tube formation. Neither RMAC11 or AK7 enhanced capillary formation in the absence of PMA. Lumen structure and size were also altered by antibody RMAC11. In the absence of antibody the majority of lumina were formed intracellularly from single cells, but in the presence of RMAC11, multiple cells were involved and the lumen size was correspondingly increased. Endothelial cells were also induced to undergo capillary formation in fibrin gels after PMA stimulation. The addition of anti-alpha v beta 3 antibodies promoted tube formation in fibrin gels and inhibited EC adhesion to and proliferation on a fibrinogen matrix. The enhancement of capillary formation by the anti-integrin antibodies was matrix specific; that is, anti-alpha v beta 3 antibodies only enhanced tube formation on fibrin gels and not on collagen gels while anti-alpha v beta 1 antibodies only enhanced tubes on collagen and not on fibrin gels. Thus we postulate that changes in the adhesive nature of endothelial cells for their extracellular matrix can profoundly effect their function. Anti-integrin antibodies which inhibit cell-matrix interactions convert endothelial cells from a proliferative phenotype towards differentiation which results in enhanced capillary tube formation.

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