Heinz-Georg Belting

Universität Basel, Bâle, Basel-City, Switzerland

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Publications (24)186.27 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In vertebrates, heart pumping is required for cardiac morphogenesis and altering myocardial contractility leads to abnormal intracardiac flow forces and valve defects [1-3]. Among the different mechanical cues generated in the developing heart, oscillatory flow has been proposed to be an essential factor in instructing endocardial cell fate toward valvulogenesis and leads to the expression of klf2a [4], a known atheroprotective transcription factor [5]. To date, the mechanism by which flow forces are sensed by endocardial cells is not well understood. At the onset of valve formation, oscillatory flows alter the spectrum of the generated wall shear stress (WSS), a key mechanical input sensed by endothelial cells. Here, we establish that mechanosensitive channels are activated in response to oscillatory flow and directly affect valvulogenesis by modulating the endocardial cell response. By combining live imaging and mathematical modeling, we quantify the oscillatory content of the WSS during valve development and demonstrate it sets the endocardial cell response to flow. Furthermore, we show that an endocardial calcium response and the flow-responsive klf2a promoter are modulated by the oscillatory flow through Trpv4, a mechanosensitive ion channel specifically expressed in the endocardium during heart valve development. We made similar observations for Trpp2, a known Trpv4 partner, and show that both the absence of Trpv4 or Trpp2 leads to valve defects. This work identifies a major mechanotransduction pathway involved during valve formation in vertebrates. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Current biology: CB 05/2015; 25(10). DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2015.03.038 · 9.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During embryonic development, vascular networks remodel to meet the increasing demand of growing tissues for oxygen and nutrients. This is achieved by the pruning of redundant blood vessel segments, which then allows more efficient blood flow patterns. Because of the lack of an in vivo system suitable for high-resolution live imaging, the dynamics of the pruning process have not been described in detail. Here, we present the subintestinal vein (SIV) plexus of the zebrafish embryo as a novel model to study pruning at the cellular level. We show that blood vessel regression is a coordinated process of cell rearrangements involving lumen collapse and cell-cell contact resolution. Interestingly, the cellular rearrangements during pruning resemble endothelial cell behavior during vessel fusion in a reversed order. In pruning segments, endothelial cells first migrate toward opposing sides where they join the parental vascular branches, thus remodeling the multicellular segment into a unicellular connection. Often, the lumen is maintained throughout this process, and transient unicellular tubes form through cell self-fusion. In a second step, the unicellular connection is resolved unilaterally, and the pruning cell rejoins the opposing branch. Thus, we show for the first time that various cellular activities are coordinated to achieve blood vessel pruning and define two different morphogenetic pathways, which are selected by the flow environment.
    PLoS Biology 04/2015; 13(4):e1002126. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002126 · 11.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During blood vessel formation, endothelial cells (ECs) establish cell-cell junctions and rearrange to form multicellular tubes. Here, we show that during lumen formation, the actin nucleator and elongation factor, formin-like 3 (fmnl3), localizes to EC junctions, where filamentous actin (F-actin) cables assemble. Fluorescent actin reporters and fluorescence recov-ery after photobleaching experiments in zebrafish embryos identified a pool of dynamic F-actin with high turnover at EC junctions in vessels. Knockdown of fmnl3 expression, chemical inhibition of formin function, and expression of dominant-negative fmnl3 revealed that formin activity maintains a stable F-actin content at EC junctions by continual polymer-ization of F-actin cables. Reduced actin polymeri-zation leads to destabilized endothelial junctions and consequently to failure in blood vessel lumeniza-tion and lumen instability. Our findings highlight the importance of formin activity in blood vessel morphogenesis.
    Developmental Cell 01/2015; 32(1). DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2014.11.017 · 10.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Organ morphogenesis requires the coordination of cell behaviors. Here, we have analyzed dynamic endothelial cell behaviors underlying sprouting angiogenesis in vivo. Two different mechanisms contribute to sprout outgrowth: tip cells show strong migratory behavior, whereas extension of the stalk is dependent upon cell elongation. To investigate the function of Cdh5 in sprout outgrowth, we generated null mutations in the zebrafish cdh5 gene, and we found that junctional remodeling and cell elongation are impaired in mutant embryos. The defects are associated with a disorganization of the actin cytoskeleton and cannot be rescued by expression of a truncated version of Cdh5. Finally, the defects in junctional remodeling can be phenocopied by pharmacological inhibition of actin polymerization, but not by inhibiting actin-myosin contractility. Taken together, our results support a model in which Cdh5 organizes junctional and cortical actin cytoskeletons, as well as provides structural support for polymerizing F-actin cables during endothelial cell elongation.
    Cell Reports 10/2014; 9(2). DOI:10.1016/j.celrep.2014.09.024 · 8.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The origin of novel phenotypic characters is a key component in organismal diversification; yet, the mechanisms underlying the emergence of such evolutionary novelties are largely unknown. Here we examine the origin of egg-spots, an evolutionary innovation of the most species-rich group of cichlids, the haplochromines, where these conspicuous male fin colour markings are involved in mating. Applying a combination of RNAseq, comparative genomics and functional experiments, we identify two novel pigmentation genes, fhl2a and fhl2b, and show that especially the more rapidly evolving b-paralog is associated with egg-spot formation. We further find that egg-spot bearing haplochromines, but not other cichlids, feature a transposable element in the cis-regulatory region of fhl2b. Using transgenic zebrafish, we finally demonstrate that this region shows specific enhancer activities in iridophores, a type of pigment cells found in egg-spots, suggesting that a cis-regulatory change is causally linked to the gain of expression in egg-spot bearing haplochromines.
    Nature Communications 10/2014; 5. DOI:10.1038/ncomms6149 · 10.74 Impact Factor
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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 05/2014; 5:3743. DOI:10.1038/ncomms4743 · 10.74 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 10/2013; 8(10):e75060. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0075060 · 3.23 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. DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2013.05.010 · 10.37 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; 140(13). DOI:10.1242/dev.091876 · 6.27 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. DOI:10.1038/ncomms2683 · 10.74 Impact Factor
  • Arndt F Siekmann · Markus Affolter · Heinz-Georg Belting
    Experimental Cell Research 02/2013; 319(9). DOI:10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.01.019 · 3.37 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. DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2011.10.016 · 9.92 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. DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2011.09.004 · 10.37 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. DOI:10.1242/dev.064261 · 6.27 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. DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2011.06.033 · 10.37 Impact Factor
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    Developmental Biology 08/2011; 356(1):102-102. DOI:10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.05.009 · 3.64 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. DOI:10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.05.660 · 3.64 Impact Factor
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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. DOI:10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.10.035 · 3.64 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. DOI:10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.01.038 · 3.64 Impact Factor
  • Heinz-Georg Belting · Markus Affolter
    Nature Cell Biology 09/2007; 9(8):880-1. DOI:10.1038/ncb0807-880 · 20.06 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

628 Citations
186.27 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2008–2015
    • Universität Basel
      • Zoological Institute
      Bâle, Basel-City, Switzerland
  • 2003–2011
    • University of Freiburg
      • • Faculty of Biology
      • • Institute of Biology I
      Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany