Endothelial cell motility has fundamental role in vasculogenesis and angiogenesis during developmental or pathological processes. Tks4 is a scaffold protein known to organize the cytoskeleton of lamellipodia and podosomes, and thus modulating cell motility and invasion. In particular, Tks4 is required for the localization and activity of membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase, a key factor for extracellular matrix (ECM) cleavage during cell migration. While its role in transformed cells is well established, little is known about the function of Tks4 under physiological conditions. In this study we examined the impact of Tks4 gene silencing on the functional activity of primary human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and used time-lapse videomicrosopy and quantitative image analysis to characterize cell motility phenotypes in culture. We demonstrate that the absence of Tks4 in endothelial cells leads to impaired ECM cleavage and decreased motility within a 3-dimensional ECM environment. Furthermore, absence of Tks4 also decreases the ability of HUVEC cells to form multicellular sprouts, a key requirement for angiogenesis. To establish the involvement of Tks4 in vascular development in vivo, we show that loss of Tks4 leads sparser vasculature in the fetal chorion in the Tks4-deficient ‘nee’ mouse strain.
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