Urotensin-II (U-II), along its receptor UT, is widely expressed in the cardiovascular system, where it exerts regulatory actions under both physiological and pathological conditions. In the present study, human vascular endothelial cells (EC) from one arterious and three venous vascular beds were used to investigate in vitro their heterogeneity in terms of expression of U-II and UT and of angiogenic response to the peptide. Real-time PCR and immunocytochemistry demonstrated the expression of UT, as mRNA and protein, in all the EC populations investigated. U-II, on the contrary, was detectable only in EC from aorta and umbilical vein. U-II did not affect the proliferation rate of adult human EC, but induced a moderate proliferative effect on EC from human umbilical vein. When tested in the Matrigel assay, however, all EC exhibited a strong angiogenic response to the peptide, comparable to that of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) and it was not associated to an increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and/or its receptors. The angiogenic effect of U-II was abolished by the UT antagonist palosuran. Overall, these data suggest that U-II, in addition to the well known role in the regulation of cardiovascular function, also exert a specific angiogenic activity. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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