ABSTRACT: Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) responsive effects mediated via the receptors fetal liver kinase-1 (flk-1) and fms-like tyrosine kinase (flt-1), are key processes of pulmonary vascular development. Flk-1 has been shown to be involved in early embryonic lung epithelial to endothelial crosstalk and branching morphogenesis. Recent reports suggested a role of VEGF-A in lung epithelial cell function. Based on these observations, we hypothesize that epithelial flk-1 has a unique function in pulmonary development. Thus, the aim of this study is to elucidate spatiotemporal expression of flk-1 during lung development with respect to the epithelial system. Embryonic lungs were screened for flk-1 messenger RNA and protein at daily intervals, including postnatal stages. From Embryonic Day (ED) 12.5 through ED 15.5, flk-1 expression was restricted to the early vascular primitive network, while from ED 16.5 on flk-1 was detectable in the epithelial system and persisted there postnatally. At postnatal stages, flk-1 expression was increasingly restricted to individual cells in the alveolar septa. Isolation and in vitro cultivation of alveolar epithelial cells confirmed flk-1 expression and showed VEGF secretion into the supernatant. To our knowledge, this is the first murine study characterizing epithelial flk-1 expression at different stages throughout lung organogenesis until birth and at postnatal stages. To confirm epithelial flk-1 expression, we performed reporter gene analysis of the flk-1 promoter in vivo. Investigations on transgenic mouse strains, containing either a complete or incomplete flk-1 promoter driving expression of the lacZ reporter gene, suggested differential flk-1 regulation in endothelial and epithelial cells.
American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology 09/2008; 39(2):163-70. · 5.13 Impact Factor