Human molecular genetics

Tbx1 regulates brain vascularization.

PMID 23945394


The transcription factor TBX1 is the major gene involved in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS). Using mouse models of these diseases, we have previously shown that TBX1 activates VEGFR3 in endothelial cells (EC), and that this interaction is critical for the development of the lymphatic vasculature. In this study, we show that TBX1 regulates brain angiogenesis. Using loss-of-function genetics and molecular approaches, we show that TBX1 regulates the VEGFR3 and DLL4 genes in brain ECs. In mice, loss of TBX1 causes global brain vascular defects, comprising brain vessel hyperplasia, enhanced angiogenic sprouting and vessel network disorganization. This phenotype is recapitulated in EC-specific Tbx1 conditional mutants and in an EC-only 3-dimensional cell culture system (matrigel), indicating that the brain vascular phenotype is cell autonomous. Furthermore, EC-specific conditional Tbx1 mutants have poorly perfused brain vessels and brain hypoxia, indicating that the expanded vascular network is functionally impaired. In EC-matrigel cultures, a Notch1 agonist is able to partially rescue microtubule hyperbranching induced by TBX1 knockdown. Thus, we have identified a novel transcriptional regulator of angiogenesis that exerts its effect in brain by negatively regulating angiogenesis through the DLL4/Notch1-VEGFR3 regulatory axis. Given the similarity of the phenotypic consequences of TBX1 mutation in humans and mice, this unexpected role of TBX1 in murine brain vascularization should stimulate clinicians to search for brain microvascular anomalies in 22q11.2DS patients and to evaluate whether some of the anatomical and functional brain anomalies in patients may have a microvascular origin.