We performed differential cDNA hybridization using RNA from endothelial cells cultured for 4 hours on either plastic or basement membrane matrix (Matrigel), and identified early genes induced during the morphological differentiation into capillary-like tubes. The mRNA for one clone, thymosin beta 4, was increased 5-fold. Immunostaining localized thymosin beta 4 in vivo in both growing and mature vessels as well as in other tissues. Endothelial cells transfected with thymosin beta 4 showed an increased rate of attachment and spreading on matrix components, and an accelerated rate of tube formation on Matrigel. An antisense oligo to thymosin beta 4 inhibited tube formation on Matrigel. The results suggest that thymosin beta 4 is induced and likely involved in differentiating endothelial cells. Thymosin beta 4 may play a role in vessel formation in vivo.

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