Sickle cell anemia as a possible state of enhanced anti-apoptotic tone: Survival effect of vascular endothelial growth factor on circulating and unanchored endothelial cells

Anna Solovey, Lizhen Gui, Sundaram Ramakrishnan, Martin H. Steinberg, Robert P. Hebbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

101 Scopus citations


The biologic processes of apoptosis and angiogenesis are linked in endothelial biology because some endothelial cell growth factors also exert anti-apoptotic effects. We studied whether apoptosis is occurring in circulating endothelial cells (CEC) that have lost the survival signals derived from anchorage to extracellular matrix. Consistent with this expectation, 64% ± 16% of CEC from normal donors showed evidence of apoptosis (by morphology and TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labeling [TUNEL] assay). However, only 30% ± 15% (P < .001 v normal) of CEC from donors with sickle cell anemia were apoptotic. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels were significantly (P = .001) higher in plasma of sickle donors (120.1 ± 81.4 pg/mL) than that of normal donors (37.6 ± 34.6 pg/mL), and there was an inverse correlation between VEGF and CEC apoptosis (r = .612, P = .001). Consistent with stimulation by VEGF, CEC from sickle donors exhibited increased expression of {v)β3. In vitro experiments showed that VEGF inhibits apoptosis for cultured endothelial cells that are kept unanchored end not allowed to re-establish attachment to extracellular matrix, thus demonstrating that VEGF provides survival signals independent of its ability to promote matrix reattachment. These data suggest the hypothesis that sickle cell anemia is a state of enhanced anti-apoptotic tone for endothelial cells. If true, this has implications for disease pathobiology, particularly the development of neovascularizing retinopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3824-3830
Number of pages7
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology

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