Incomplete Dll4/Notch signaling inhibition promotes functional angiogenesis supporting the growth of skin papillomas.
Djokovic D., Trindade A., Gigante J., Pinho M., Harris AL., Duarte A.
BACKGROUND: In invasive malignancies, Dll4/Notch signaling inhibition enhances non-functional vessel proliferation and limits tumor growth by reducing its blood perfusion. METHODS: To assess the effects of targeted Dll4 allelic deletion in the incipient stages of tumor pathogenesis, we chemically induced skin papillomas in wild-type and Dll4 (+/-) littermates, and compared tumor growth, their histological features, vascularization and the expression of angiogenesis-related molecules. RESULTS: We observed that Dll4 down-regulation promotes productive angiogenesis, although with less mature vessels, in chemically-induced pre-cancerous skin papillomas stimulating their growth. The increase in endothelial activation was associated with an increase in the VEGFR2 to VEGFR1 ratio, which neutralized the tumor-suppressive effect of VEGFR-targeting sorafenib. Thus, in early papillomas, lower levels of Dll4 increase vascularization through raised VEGFR2 levels, enhancing sensitivity to endogenous levels of VEGF, promoting functional angiogenesis and tumor growth. CONCLUSION: Tumor promoting effect of low-dosage inhibition needs to be considered when implementing Dll4 targeting therapies.