Various culture conditions, such as the presence of ascorbic acid, initial plating density and the nature of the substratum (plastic, gelatin or native collagen gels), influenced the growth, morphology and migration of three cloned populations of adult bovine aorta endothelial cells. Aorta endothelial cells showed two distinctive and reversible morphological phenotypes. Cells presenting a free apical surface were polygonal and formed sheets of overlapping or non-overlapping cells, depending on the culture conditions. When the cells were able to establish adhesive interactions over their entire cell surface they adopted an elongated shape and formed meshworks of interconnected ‘sprouting’ cells. The cells were capable of migrating into a collagen gel from both their basal and apical surfaces. Once in the gel, they formed characteristic, compact, three-dimensional meshworks.

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