Heinz-Georg Belting

Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine, Muenster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

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Publications (19)140.55 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The assembly of individual endothelial cells into multicellular tubes is a complex morphogenetic event in vascular development. Extracellular matrix cues and cell-cell junctional communication are fundamental to tube formation. Together they determine the shape of endothelial cells and the tubular structures that they ultimately form. Little is known regarding how mechanical signals are transmitted between cells to control cell shape changes during morphogenesis. Here we provide evidence that the scaffold protein amotL2 is needed for aortic vessel lumen expansion. Using gene inactivation strategies in zebrafish, mouse and endothelial cell culture systems, we show that amotL2 associates to the VE-cadherin adhesion complex where it couples adherens junctions to contractile actin fibres. Inactivation of amotL2 dissociates VE-cadherin from cytoskeletal tensile forces that affect endothelial cell shape. We propose that the VE-cadherin/amotL2 complex is responsible for transmitting mechanical force between endothelial cells for the coordination of cellular morphogenesis consistent with aortic lumen expansion and function.
    Nature Communications 01/2014; 5:3743. · 10.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Organ formation and growth requires cells to organize into properly patterned three-dimensional architectures. Network formation within the vertebrate vascular system is driven by fusion events between nascent sprouts or between sprouts and pre-existing blood vessels. Here, we describe the cellular activities that occur during blood vessel anastomosis in the cranial vasculature of the zebrafish embryo. We show that the early steps of the fusion process involve endothelial cell recognition, de novo polarization of endothelial cells, and apical membrane invagination and fusion. These processes generate a unicellular tube, which is then transformed into a multicellular tube via cell rearrangements and cell splitting. This stereotypic series of morphogenetic events is typical for anastomosis in perfused sprouts. Vascular endothelial-cadherin plays an important role early in the anastomosis process and is required for filopodial tip cell interactions and efficient formation of a single contact site. VIDEO ABSTRACT:
    Developmental Cell 06/2013; 25(5):492-506. · 12.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The formation and lumenization of blood vessels has been studied in some detail, but there is little understanding of the morphogenetic mechanisms by which endothelial cells (ECs) forming large caliber vessels aggregate, align themselves and finally form a lumen that can support blood flow. Here, we focus on the development of the zebrafish common cardinal veins (CCVs), which collect all the blood from the embryo and transport it back to the heart. We show that the angioblasts that eventually form the definitive CCVs become specified as a separate population distinct from the angioblasts that form the lateral dorsal aortae. The subsequent development of the CCVs represents a novel mechanism of vessel formation, during which the ECs delaminate and align along the inner surface of an existing luminal space. Thereby, the CCVs are initially established as open-ended endothelial tubes, which extend as single EC sheets along the flow routes of the circulating blood and eventually enclose the entire lumen in a process that we term 'lumen ensheathment'. Furthermore, we found that the initial delamination of the ECs as well as the directional migration within the EC sheet depend on Cadherin 5 function. By contrast, EC proliferation within the growing CCV is controlled by Vascular endothelial growth factor C, which is provided by circulating erythrocytes. Our findings not only identify a novel mechanism of vascular lumen formation, but also suggest a new form of developmental crosstalk between hematopoietic and endothelial cell lineages.
    Development 05/2013; · 6.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) guides the path of new vessel sprouts by inducing VEGF receptor-2 activity in the sprout tip. In the stalk cells of the sprout, VEGF receptor-2 activity is downregulated. Here, we show that VEGF receptor-2 in stalk cells is dephosphorylated by the endothelium-specific vascular endothelial-phosphotyrosine phosphatase (VE-PTP). VE-PTP acts on VEGF receptor-2 located in endothelial junctions indirectly, via the Angiopoietin-1 receptor Tie2. VE-PTP inactivation in mouse embryoid bodies leads to excess VEGF receptor-2 activity in stalk cells, increased tyrosine phosphorylation of VE-cadherin and loss of cell polarity and lumen formation. Vessels in ve-ptp(-/-) teratomas also show increased VEGF receptor-2 activity and loss of endothelial polarization. Moreover, the zebrafish VE-PTP orthologue ptp-rb is essential for polarization and lumen formation in intersomitic vessels. We conclude that the role of Tie2 in maintenance of vascular quiescence involves VE-PTP-dependent dephosphorylation of VEGF receptor-2, and that VEGF receptor-2 activity regulates VE-cadherin tyrosine phosphorylation, endothelial cell polarity and lumen formation.
    Nature Communications 04/2013; 4:1672. · 10.02 Impact Factor
  • Arndt F Siekmann, Markus Affolter, Heinz-Georg Belting
    Experimental Cell Research 02/2013; · 3.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: After the initial formation of a highly branched vascular plexus, blood vessel pruning generates a hierarchically structured network with improved flow characteristics. We report here on the cellular events that occur during the pruning of a defined blood vessel in the eye of developing zebrafish embryos. Time-lapse imaging reveals that the connection of a new blood vessel sprout with a previously perfused multicellular endothelial tube leads to the formation of a branched, Y-shaped structure. Subsequently, endothelial cells in parts of the previously perfused branch rearrange from a multicellular into a unicellular tube, followed by blood vessel detachment. This process is accompanied by endothelial cell death. Finally, we show that differences in blood flow between neighboring vessels are important for the completion of the pruning process. Our data suggest that flow induced changes in tubular architecture ensure proper blood vessel pruning.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(10):e75060. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although many of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of angiogenesis have been intensely studied [1], little is known about the processes that underlie vascular anastomosis. We have generated transgenic fish lines expressing an EGFP-tagged version of the junctional protein zona occludens 1 (ZO1) to visualize individual cell behaviors that occur during vessel fusion and lumen formation in vivo. These life observations show that endothelial cells (ECs) use two distinct morphogenetic mechanisms, cell membrane invagination and cord hollowing to generate different types of vascular tubes. During initial steps of anastomosis, cell junctions that have formed at the initial site of cell contacts expand into rings, generating a cellular interface of apical membrane compartments, as defined by the localization of the apical marker podocalyxin-2 (Pdxl2). During the cord hollowing process, these apical membrane compartments are brought together via cell rearrangements and extensive junctional remodeling, resulting in lumen coalescence and formation of a multicellular tube. Vessel fusion by membrane invagination occurs adjacent to a preexisting lumen in a proximal to distal direction and is blood-flow dependent. Here, the invaginating inner cell membrane undergoes concomitant apicobasal polarization and the vascular lumen is formed by the extension of a transcellular lumen through the EC, which forms a unicellular or seamless tube.
    Current biology: CB 11/2011; 21(22):1942-8. · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The hypothalamo-neurohypophyseal system (HNS) is the neurovascular structure through which the hypothalamic neuropeptides oxytocin and arginine-vasopressin exit the brain into the bloodstream, where they go on to affect peripheral physiology. Here, we investigate the molecular cues that regulate the neurovascular contact between hypothalamic axons and neurohypophyseal capillaries of the zebrafish. We developed a transgenic system in which both hypothalamic axons and neurohypophyseal vasculature can be analyzed in vivo. We identified the cellular organization of the zebrafish HNS as well as the dynamic processes that contribute to formation of the HNS neurovascular interface. We show that formation of this interface is regulated during development by local release of oxytocin, which affects endothelial morphogenesis. This cell communication process is essential for the establishment of a tight axovasal interface between the neurons and blood vessels of the HNS. We present a unique example of axons affecting endothelial morphogenesis through secretion of a neuropeptide.
    Developmental Cell 10/2011; 21(4):642-54. · 12.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Coordination between adjacent tissues plays a crucial role during the morphogenesis of developing organs. In the embryonic heart, two tissues - the myocardium and the endocardium - are closely juxtaposed throughout their development. Myocardial and endocardial cells originate in neighboring regions of the lateral mesoderm, migrate medially in a synchronized fashion, collaborate to create concentric layers of the heart tube, and communicate during formation of the atrioventricular canal. Here, we identify a novel transmembrane protein, Tmem2, that has important functions during both myocardial and endocardial morphogenesis. We find that the zebrafish mutation frozen ventricle (frv) causes ectopic atrioventricular canal characteristics in the ventricular myocardium and endocardium, indicating a role of frv in the regional restriction of atrioventricular canal differentiation. Furthermore, in maternal-zygotic frv mutants, both myocardial and endocardial cells fail to move to the midline normally, indicating that frv facilitates cardiac fusion. Positional cloning reveals that the frv locus encodes Tmem2, a predicted type II single-pass transmembrane protein. Homologs of Tmem2 are present in all examined vertebrate genomes, but nothing is known about its molecular or cellular function in any context. By employing transgenes to drive tissue-specific expression of tmem2, we find that Tmem2 can function in the endocardium to repress atrioventricular differentiation within the ventricle. Additionally, Tmem2 can function in the myocardium to promote the medial movement of both myocardial and endocardial cells. Together, our data reveal that Tmem2 is an essential mediator of myocardium-endocardium coordination during cardiac morphogenesis.
    Development 10/2011; 138(19):4199-205. · 6.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sprouting angiogenesis expands the embryonic vasculature enabling survival and homeostasis. Yet how the angiogenic capacity to form sprouts is allocated among endothelial cells (ECs) to guarantee the reproducible anatomy of stereotypical vascular beds remains unclear. Here we show that Sema-PlxnD1 signaling, previously implicated in sprout guidance, represses angiogenic potential to ensure the proper abundance and stereotypical distribution of the trunk's segmental arteries (SeAs). We find that Sema-PlxnD1 signaling exerts this effect by antagonizing the proangiogenic activity of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Specifically, Sema-PlxnD1 signaling ensures the proper endothelial abundance of soluble flt1 (sflt1), an alternatively spliced form of the VEGF receptor Flt1 encoding a potent secreted decoy. Hence, Sema-PlxnD1 signaling regulates distinct but related aspects of angiogenesis: the spatial allocation of angiogenic capacity within a primary vessel and sprout guidance.
    Developmental Cell 08/2011; 21(2):301-14. · 12.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pou5f1/Oct-4 in mice is required for maintenance of embryonic pluripotent cell populations. Zebrafish pou5f1 maternal-zygotic mutant embryos (spiel ohne grenzen; MZspg) lack endoderm and have gastrulation and dorsoventral patterning defects. A contribution of Pou5f1 to the control of bmp2b, bmp4 and vox expression has been suggested, however the mechanisms remained unclear and are investigated in detail here. Low-level overexpression of a Pou5f1-VP16 activator fusion protein can rescue dorsalization in MZspg mutants, indicating that Pou5f1 acts as a transcriptional activator during dorsoventral patterning. Overexpression of larger quantities of Pou5f1-VP16 can ventralize wild-type embryos, while overexpression of a Pou5f1-En repressor fusion protein can dorsalize embryos. Lack of Pou5f1 causes a transient upregulation of fgf8a expression after mid-blastula transition, providing a mechanism for delayed activation of bmp2b in MZspg embryos. Overexpression of the Pou5f1-En repressor induces fgf8, suggesting an indirect mechanism of Pou5f1 control of fgf8a expression. Transcription of vox is strongly activated by Pou5f1-VP16 even when translation of zygotically expressed transcripts is experimentally inhibited by cycloheximide. In contrast, bmp2b and bmp4 are not activated under these conditions. We show that Pou5f1 binds to phylogenetically conserved Oct/Pou5f1 sites in the vox promoter, both in vivo (ChIP) and in vitro. Our data reveals a set of direct and indirect interactions of Pou5f1 with the BMP dorsoventral patterning network that serve to fine-tune dorsoventral patterning mechanisms and coordinate patterning with developmental timing.
    Developmental Biology 05/2011; 356(2):323-36. · 3.87 Impact Factor
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    Developmental Biology - DEVELOP BIOL. 01/2011; 356(1):102-102.
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    ABSTRACT: During embryonic development, the vertebrate vasculature is undergoing vast growth and remodeling. Blood vessels can be formed by a wide spectrum of different morphogenetic mechanisms, such as budding, cord hollowing, cell hollowing, cell wrapping and intussusception. Here, we describe the vascular morphogenesis that occurs in the early zebrafish embryo. We discuss the diversity of morphogenetic mechanisms that contribute to vessel assembly, angiogenic sprouting and tube formation in different blood vessels and how some of these complex cell behaviors are regulated by molecular pathways.
    Developmental Biology 11/2009; 341(1):56-65. · 3.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The formation of intersegmental blood vessels (ISVs) in the zebrafish embryo serves as a paradigm to study angiogenesis in vivo. ISV formation is thought to occur in discrete steps. First, endothelial cells of the dorsal aorta migrate out and align along the dorsoventral axis. The dorsal-most cell, also called tip cell, then joins with its anterior and posterior neighbours, thus establishing a simple vascular network. The vascular lumen is then established via formation of vacuoles, which eventually fuse with those of adjacent endothelial cells to generate a seamless tube with an intracellular lumen. To investigate the cellular architecture and the development of ISVs in detail, we have analysed the arrangement of endothelial cell junctions and have performed single cell live imaging. In contrast to previous reports, we find that endothelial cells are not arranged in a linear head-to-tail configuration but overlap extensively and form a multicellular tube, which contains an extracellular lumen. Our studies demonstrate that a number of cellular behaviours, such as cell divisions, cell rearrangements and dynamic alterations in cell-cell contacts, have to be considered when studying the morphological and molecular processes involved in ISV and endothelial lumen formation in vivo.
    Developmental Biology 05/2008; 316(2):312-22. · 3.87 Impact Factor
  • Heinz-Georg Belting, Markus Affolter
    Nature Cell Biology 09/2007; 9(8):880-1. · 20.76 Impact Factor
  • Karen Lunde, Heinz-Georg Belting, Wolfgang Driever
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    ABSTRACT: pou5f1, also known as Oct4, is required to establish the pluripotent cell population necessary for embryogenesis in mouse. Additional roles during development, including endoderm formation, have been proposed. In zebrafish, the zygotic pou5f1/pou2 mutant spiel ohne grenzen (spg) shows neural plate patterning defects and reduced endoderm at the tailbud stage. To investigate the function of maternal and early zygotic pou5f1 expression, we rescued zygotic spg(m793) mutants by injecting pou5f1 mRNA at the one-cell stage and raised them into fertile homozygous spg(m793) adults that mate to produce maternal-zygotic spg (MZspg) mutant embryos. Although neurectoderm, mesoderm, and germ cells develop in MZspg mutants, gastrulation is delayed and proceeds abnormally. Further, MZspg mutants do not maintain expression of sox32/casanova, express little or no sox17, and fail to develop endodermal tissue. Constitutively active Nodal receptor TARAM-A or sox32 overexpression induces ubiquitous sox17 expression in wild-type embryos, but not in MZspg mutants. Overexpression of a Pou5f1-VP16 activator fusion protein can rescue gastrulation and endodermal tissues in MZspg mutants. We propose that pou5f1 plays an activating role in zebrafish endodermal development, where it maintains sox32 expression during gastrulation and acts with sox32 to induce sox17 expression in endodermal precursor cells.
    Current Biology 02/2004; 14(1):48-55. · 9.49 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although mechanisms of sex differentiation have been studied intensely in mammals, insects, and worms, little is known about this process in lower vertebrates. To establish a marker for female gonad differentiation in zebrafish, we generated a transgenic line in which 412 bp from the promoter and 5' mRNA leader of the female-specific zebrafish zona pellucida gene zpc are fused to the coding region of green fluorescent protein (GFP). The zpc0.5:GFP transgene is expressed exclusively in oocytes, starting from the onset of female-specific differentiation, and closely resembles the expression pattern of the wild-type zpc. Strong GFP expression persists throughout oogenesis and is visible through the body wall of females. We have also characterized a putative upstream factor of zpc, FIGalpha, and show that distribution of FIGalpha RNA is compatible with its postulated role in the regulation of zpc. The zpc0.5:GFP transgenic line described here will be useful for studying oocyte development and the mechanisms that determine sex-specific gene expression in the zebrafish. It is also the first promoter characterized to date to drive stable and efficient expression specifically in the zebrafish female germline.
    Developmental Dynamics 12/2003; 228(3):393-404. · 2.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Segmentation of the vertebrate hindbrain leads to the formation of a series of rhombomeres with distinct identities. In mouse, Krox20 and kreisler play important roles in specifying distinct rhombomeres and in controlling segmental identity by directly regulating rhombomere-specific expression of Hox genes. We show that spiel ohne grenzen (spg) zebrafish mutants develop rhombomeric territories that are abnormal in both size and shape. Rhombomere boundaries are malpositioned or absent and the segmental pattern of neuronal differentiation is perturbed. Segment-specific expression of hoxa2, hoxb2 and hoxb3 is severely affected during initial stages of hindbrain development in spg mutants and the establishment of krx20 (Krox20 ortholog) and valentino (val; kreisler ortholog) expression is impaired. spg mutants carry loss-of-function mutations in the pou2 gene. pou2 is expressed at high levels in the hindbrain primordium of wild-type embryos prior to activation of krx20 and val. Widespread overexpression of Pou2 can rescue the segmental krx20 and val domains in spg mutants, but does not induce ectopic expression of these genes. This suggests that spg/pou2 acts in a permissive manner and is essential for normal expression of krx20 and val. We propose that spg/pou2 is an essential component of the regulatory cascade controlling hindbrain segmentation and acts before krx20 and val in the establishment of rhombomere precursor territories.
    Development 05/2002; 129(7):1645-55. · 6.21 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

375 Citations
140.55 Total Impact Points


  • 2013
    • Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine
      Muenster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • 2008–2013
    • Universität Basel
      Bâle, Basel-City, Switzerland
  • 2002–2011
    • University of Freiburg
      • • Faculty of Biology
      • • Institute of Biology I
      Freiburg, Lower Saxony, Germany