The neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is required for the maintenance of cardiac vessel wall stability during embryonic development through direct angiogenic actions on endothelial cells expressing the tropomysin receptor kinase B (TrkB). However, the role of BDNF and a related neurotrophin ligand, neurotrophin-4 (NT-4), in the regulation of revascularization of the adult tissues is unknown. To study the potential angiogenic capacity of BDNF in mediating the neovascularization of ischemic and non-ischemic adult mouse tissues, we utilized a hindlimb ischemia and a subcutaneous Matrigel model. Recruitment of endothelial cells and promotion of channel formation within the Matrigel plug by BDNF and NT-4 was comparable to that induced by VEGF-A. The introduction of BDNF into non-ischemic ears or ischemic limbs induced neoangiogenesis, with a 2-fold increase in the capillary density. Remarkably, treatment with BDNF progressively increased blood flow in the ischemic limb over 21 days, similar to treatment with VEGF-A. The mechanism by which BDNF enhances capillary formation is mediated in part through local activation of the TrkB receptor and also by recruitment of Sca-1+CD11b+ pro-angiogenic hematopoietic cells. BDNF induces a potent direct chemokinetic action on subsets of marrow-derived Sca-1+ hematopoietic cells co-expressing TrkB. These studies suggest that local regional delivery of BDNF may provide a novel mechanism for inducing neoangiogenesis through both direct actions on local TrkB-expressing endothelial cells in skeletal muscle and recruitment of specific subsets of TrkB+ bone marrow-derived hematopoietic cells to provide peri-endothelial support for the newly formed vessels.
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