Capillary endothelial cells of rat epididymal fat pad were isolated and cultured in media conditioned by bovine aortic endothelial cells and substrata consisting of interstitial or basement membrane collagens. When these cells were grown on interstitial collagens they underwent proliferation, formed a continuous cell layer and, if cultured for long periods of time, formed occasional tubelike structures. In contrast, when these cells were grown on basement membrane collagens, they did not proliferate but did aggregate and form tubelike structures at early culture times. In addition, cells grown on basement membrane substrata expressed more basement membrane constituents as compared with cells grown on interstitial matrices when assayed by immunoperoxidase methods and quantitated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent inhibition assays. Furthermore, when cells were grown on either side of washed, acellular amnionic membranes their phenotypes were markedly different. On the basement membrane surface they adhered, spread, and formed tubelike structures but did not migrate through the basement membrane. In contrast, when seeded on the stromal surface, these cells were observed to proliferate and migrate into the stromal aspect of the amnion and ultimately formed tubelike structures at high cell densities at longer culture periods (21 d). Thus, connective tissue components play important roles in regulating the phenotypic expression of capillary endothelial cells in vitro, and similar roles of the collagenous components of the extracellular matrix may exist in vivo following injury and during angiogenesis. Furthermore, the culture systems outlined here may be of use in the further study of differentiated, organized capillary endothelial cells in culture.

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