Tel.+49 30 838 53555 Fax.+49 30 838-53480
Angiogenesis is a multi-step process involving migration, proliferation, and a specific spatial arrangement of endothelial cells. On the basis of a model of cultured microvascular endothelial cells derived from the bovine corpus luteum, all stages of in vitro angiogenesis as well as intussusceptive remodeling were characterized by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. To preserve the delicate three-dimensional cellular structures for electron microscopy, modified processing techniques for both transmission and scanning electron microscopy including micro-corrosion casting of cultured cells were established. The detailed results on morphological alterations and cellular interactions confirmed and complemented earlier studies of in vitro angiogenesis. Electron microscopy proved to be an efficient tool for detection and supervision of all major endothelial differentiation processes resembling in vivo conditions that are generally considered important in a realistic in vitro model of angiogenesis: occurrence of function-related cellular junctions; development of specific surface features indicating cellular polarity; production of extracellular matrix material; mechanisms leading to the formation of an internal lumen; specific spatial arrangement of endothelial cells within capillary-like networks; detachment of apoptotic cells as well as intussusception of specific cells within the course of vascular remodeling. The abundance of quickly available information provided by electron microscopic approaches may be useful for subsequent, e.g., biochemical or molecular, studies and thus delivers important controls for further experimental designs.