The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 55: 419 - 429 (2011)

Vol 55, Issue 4-5

Special Issue: Angiogenesis in Development & Cancer

The role of blood flow and microRNAs in blood vessel development

Review | Published: 19 July 2011

Dong Liu, Janna Krueger and Ferdinand Le Noble*

Department of Angiogenesis and Cardiovascular Pathology, Max Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, Germany


The circulatory system is the first organ system that develops during embryogenesis, and is essential for embryo viability and survival. Crucial for developing a functional vasculature are the specification of arterial-venous identity in vessels and the formation of a hierarchical branched vascular network. Sprouting angiogenesis, intussusception, and flow driven remodeling events collectively contribute to establishing the vascular architecture. At the molecular level, arterial-venous identity and branching are regulated by genetically hardwired mechanisms involving Notch, vascular endothelial growth factor and neural guidance molecule signaling pathways, modulated by hemodynamic factors. MicroRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that act as silencers to fine-tune the gene expression profile. MicroRNAs are known to influence cell fate decisions, and microRNA expression can be controlled by blood flow, thus placing microRNAs potentially at the center of the genetic cascades regulating vascular differentiation. In the present review, we summarize current progress regarding microRNA functions in blood vessel development with an emphasis on studies performed in zebrafish and mouse models.


microRNA, blood vessel, development, endothelial cell, smooth muscle cell

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