Tropoelastin, the soluble precursor of elastin, has been used for regenerative and wound healing purposes and noted for its ability to accelerate wound repair by enhancing vascularization at the site of implantation. However, it is not clear whether these effects are directly due to the interaction of tropoelastin with endothelial cells or communicated to endothelial cells following interactions between tropoelastin and neighboring cells, such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). We adapted an endothelial tube formation assay to model in vivo vascularization with the goal of exploring the stimulatory mechanism of tropoelastin. In the presence of tropoelastin, endothelial cells formed less tubes, with reduced spreading into capillary-like networks. In contrast, conditioned media from MSCs that had been cultured on tropoelastin enhanced the formation of more dense, complex, and interconnected endothelial tube networks. This pro-angiogenic effect of tropoelastin is mediated indirectly through the action of tropoelastin on co-cultured cells. We conclude that tropoelastin inhibits endothelial tube formation, and that this effect is reversed by pro-angiogenic crosstalk from tropoelastin-treated MSCs. Furthermore, we find that the known in vivo pro-angiogenic effects of tropoelastin can be modeled in vitro, highlighting the value of tropoelastin as an indirect mediator of angiogenesis.
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