Blood vessels form elaborate networks that depend on tissue-specific signalling pathways and anatomical structures to guide their growth. However, it is not clear which morphogenetic principles organize the stepwise assembly of the vasculature. We therefore performed a longitudinal analysis of zebrafish caudal fin vascular assembly, revealing the existence of temporally and spatially distinct morphogenetic processes. Initially, vein-derived endothelial cells (ECs) generated arteries in a reiterative process requiring vascular endothelial growth factor (Vegf), Notch and cxcr4a signalling. Subsequently, veins produced veins in more proximal fin regions, transforming pre-existing artery-vein loops into a three-vessel pattern consisting of an artery and two veins. A distinct set of vascular plexuses formed at the base of the fin. They differed in their diameter, flow magnitude and marker gene expression. At later stages, intussusceptive angiogenesis occurred from veins in distal fin regions. In proximal fin regions, we observed new vein sprouts crossing the inter-ray tissue through sprouting angiogenesis. Together, our results reveal a surprising diversity among the mechanisms generating the mature fin vasculature and suggest that these might be driven by separate local cues.

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