Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, occurs during development, wound healing and cancer and involves stages that orchestrate a network of cooperative interactions. Peptide growth factors and extracellular matrix (ECM) components are two major groups of angiogenesis mediators. Among the different ECM proteins, collagens have been well-associated with in vivo angiogenesis. Using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) grown in 3-D collagen gels we show that: (1) HUVEC do not survive well in 3-D collagen gels due to rapid induction of apoptosis. (2) VEGF, a potent in vivo angiogenic factor, fails to induce tube formation. (3) PMA was effective in inducing tube formation and survival in HUVEC dispersed in 3-D collagen gels, activating MAP kinase, phosphoinositide 3-OH kinase (PI-3-kinase) and Akt/PKB (protein kinase B) pathways. (4) VEGF was effective in preventing PMA-induced tube-like structure regression after PMA-withdrawal by (5) activating the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK), rather than the Akt/PKB, signaling pathway.

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