Angiogenesis research has focused on the sprouting of new capillaries. The mechanisms of vessel maturation are much less well understood. Yet, the maintenance of a mature, quiescent, and organotypically-differentiated layer of endothelial cells (ECs) lining the inside of all blood vessels is vital for human health. The goal of ANGIOMATURE is to identify, validate, and implement novel mechanisms of vascular maturation and organotypic EC differentiation that are active during development, maintenance of vascular stability in adults, and undergo changes in aging. We recently identified previously unrecognized gene expression signatures of vascular maturation in a genome-wide screen of ECs isolated from newborn and adult mice. Epigenetic mechanisms were identified that control the EC transcriptome through gain and loss of DNA methylation as well as EC differentiation and signaling specification. These findings pave the way for groundbreaking novel opportunities to study vascular maturation. By characterizing functionally diverse types of blood vessels, including continuous ECs in lung and brain and sinusoidal ECs in liver and bone marrow, the ANGIOMATURE project will (1) determine up to single cell resolution the transcriptional and epigenetic program(s) of vascular maturation and organotypic differentiation during adolescence, (2) analyze the functional consequences of such program(s) in differentiated ECs and their adaptation to challenge, and (3) study changes of maturation and differentiation program(s) and vascular responses during aging. We will towards this end employ an interdisciplinary matrix of approaches involving omics, systems biology, conditional gene targeting, organoid cell culture, and experimental pathology to create a high-resolution structural and functional organotypic angioarchitectural map. The project will thereby yield transformative mechanistic insights into vital biological processes that are most important for human health and healthy aging.
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