Common mechanisms of nerve and blood vessel wiring

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Blood vessels and nerve fibres course throughout the body in an orderly pattern, often alongside one another. Although superficially distinct, the mechanisms involved in wiring neural and vascular networks seem to share some deep similarities. The discovery of key axon guidance molecules over the past decade has shown that axons are guided to their targets by finely tuned codes of attractive and repulsive cues, and recent studies reveal that these cues also help blood vessels to navigate to their targets. Parallels have also emerged between the actions of growth factors that direct angiogenic sprouting and those that regulate axon terminal arborization.

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Figure 1: Parallels in vessel and nerve patterning.
Figure 2: Stereotyped axon and vessel navigation.
Figure 3: Growth factor gradients determine vessel and axon branching.
Figure 4: Principal axon guidance cues and their receptors.
Figure 5: Mechanisms regulating midline axon guidance.
Figure 6: Role of guidance signals in intersomitic vessel guidance.


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We regret that, owing to space limitations, we have been unable to refer to all of the primary literature and had to rely instead, in many instances, on reviews. We thank T. Jessell and R. Watts for comments on the manuscript. P.C. is supported by grants from the FWO, the European Union and the Concerted Research Activities of Belgium.

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Correspondence to Peter Carmeliet.

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M.T.-L. is an employee of Genentech Inc. and a member of the scientific advisory board of Renovis Inc. Both companies have a commercial interest in some of the molecules described here.

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Carmeliet, P., Tessier-Lavigne, M. Common mechanisms of nerve and blood vessel wiring. Nature 436, 193–200 (2005) doi:10.1038/nature03875

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