Despite extensive work showing the importance of blood flow in angiogenesis and vessel remodeling, very little is known about how changes in vessel diameter are orchestrated at the cellular level in response to mechanical forces. To define the cellular changes necessary for remodeling, we performed live confocal imaging of cultured mouse embryos during vessel remodeling. Our data revealed that vessel diameter increase occurs via two distinct processes that are dependent on normal blood flow: vessel fusions and directed endothelial cell migrations. Vessel fusions resulted in a rapid change in vessel diameter and were restricted to regions that experience the highest flow near the vitelline artery and vein. Directed cell migrations induced by blood flow resulted in the recruitment of endothelial cells to larger vessels from smaller capillaries and were observed in larger artery segments as they expanded. The dynamic and specific endothelial cell behaviors captured in this study reveal how sensitive endothelial cells are to changes in blood flow and how such responses drive vascular remodeling.
- Accepted July 17, 2013.