The expression of SPARC (secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine/osteonectin/BM-40) is elevated in endothelial cells participating in angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. SPARC acts on endothelial cells to elicit changes in cell shape and to inhibit cell cycle progression. In addition, SPARC binds to and diminishes the mitotic activity of vascular endothelial growth factor. To determine the effect(s) of SPARC on angiogenic responses in vivo, we implanted polyvinyl alcohol sponges subcutaneously into wild-type and SPARC-null mice. On days 12 and 20 following implantation, SPARC-null mice showed increased cellular invasion of the sponges in comparison to wild-type mice. Areas of the sponge with the highest cell density exhibited the highest numbers of vascular profiles in both wild-type and SPARC-null animals. The endothelial component of the vessels was substantiated by immunoreactivity with three different markers specific for endothelial cells. Although sponges from SPARC-null relative to wild-type mice were populated by significantly more cells and blood vessels, an increase in the ratio of vascular to nonvascular cells was not apparent. No differences in the percentage of proliferating cells within the sponge were detected between wild-type and SPARC-null sections. However, elevated levels of vascular endothelial growth factor were associated with sponges from SPARC-null versus wild-type mice. An increase in vascular endothelial growth factor production was also observed in SPARC-null primary dermal fibroblasts relative to those of wild-type cells. In conclusion, we have shown that the fibrovascular invasion of polyvinyl alcohol sponges is enhanced in mice lacking SPARC, and we propose that increased levels of vascular endothelial growth factor account, at least in part, for this response.
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