Expression of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A) and its receptors in the umbilical cord in the course of pregnancy in the pig.Reprod Domest Anim. 2011 Jun; 46(3):434-43.RD
The umbilical cord (UC) and the placenta are important organs through which respiratory gases, nutrients, wastes and biologically active substances are exchanged between the maternal and the foetal system. A rapid placental vascularization observed in the second half of pig pregnancy is positively correlated with the mRNA expression of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Based on these findings, we hypothesized that VEGF may have a stimulatory effect in the dynamically growing UC. To further understand the role of the VEGF-VEGFR system during UC development, mRNA and protein expression as well as the cellular localization of VEGF-A, VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 in UC were examined on days 40, 60, 75 and 90 of pregnancy and after physiological delivery in the pig (day 114 of pregnancy). Real Time RT-PCR analysis showed an increase in the mRNA levels of VEGF120 and VEGF164 from day 90 of pregnancy. VEGFR-1 mRNA expression was significantly increased on day 75 of pregnancy. No significant changes in VEGFR-2 mRNA expression were detected. In turn, western blot analysis revealed an increase in VEGF-A protein expression on day 40, compared to the later days of pregnancy. A rapid increase in the VEGFR-1 protein level was noted on day 75 and 90 of gestation. No significant changes in VEGFR-2 protein expression were detected on any of the analysed days of pregnancy. Immunohistochemical staining enabled detection of VEGF-VEGFR system, in endothelial and tunica media cells of the umbilical vessels and in allantoic duct and amniotic epithelium on all analysed days of pregnancy. Positive reactions for VEGF-A and VEGFR-1, but not VEGFR-2, were also observed in myofibroblasts. In conclusion, this data shows that members of the VEGF-VEGFR system are temporally and spatially well localized for playing key roles during umbilical cord formation and its intensive growth observed after day 75 of pregnancy.