Role of the small GTPase Rap1 for integrin activity regulation in endothelial cells and angiogenesis

Author(s): Carmona G, Göttig S, Orlandi A, Scheele J, Bäuerle T, et al


Ras-associated protein 1 (Rap1), a small GTPase, attracted attention because of its involvement in several aspects of cell adhesion, including integrin- and cadherin-mediated adhesion. Yet, the role of Rap1 genes and of Rap1 effectors for angiogenesis has not been investigated. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) express Rap1a and Rap1b mRNA. To determine the contribution of Rap1 activity for angiogenesis, we overexpressed Rap1GAP1, a GTPase-activating protein that inhibits Rap1 activity. Overexpression of Rap1GAP1 significantly blocked angiogenic sprouting and tube-forming activity of HUVECs as well as migration and integrin-dependent adhesion. Silencing of Rap1a, Rap1b, or both significantly blocked HUVECs sprouting under basal and basic fibroblast growth factor-stimulated conditions and reduced HUVEC migration and integrin-dependent adhesion. We found that Rap1a and Rap1b are essential for the conformational activation of beta(1)-integrins in endothelial cells. Furthermore, silencing of Rap1a and Rap1b prevented phosphorylation of tyrosine 397 in focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and vascular endothelial growth factor-induced Akt1-activation. Rap1a(-/-)-deficient and Rap1a(+/-) heterozygote mice displayed reduced neovascularization after hind limb ischemia compared with wild-type mice. Silencing of RAPL significantly blocked the Rap1-induced sprouting of HUVECs, suggesting that the angiogenic activity of Rap1 is partly mediated by RAPL. Our data demonstrate a critical role of Rap1 in the regulation of beta(1)-integrin affinity, adhesion, and migration in endothelial cells and in postnatal neovascularization.

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