Kidney international. Supplement

ELK and LERK-2 in developing kidney and microvascular endothelial assembly.

PMID 8941926


Eph family receptor tyrosine kinases direct neuronal cell targeting, bundling and intercellular aggregation activity, yet their role in mammalian kidney development has been unexplored to date. We recently identified expression of ELK (Eph-like kinase) receptors in cultured human renal microvascular endothelial cells (HRMEC), and showed that ELK mediates their in vitro assembly into capillary-like structures in response to the exogenous ligand, LERK-2. Here we identify expression of the ELK ligand, LERK-2, in HRMEC and in primitive vascular structures of developing murine kidney. ELK and LERK-2 are expressed on endothelial progenitor cells of primitive microvasculature in a pattern similar to that of the VEGF receptor, flk-1. ELK LERK-2 and flk-1 antigens are also displayed on the branching ureteric bud epithelium; ELK and LERK-2 expression persists in mature collecting ducts, glomeruli and arterioles. To explore whether renal-derived endothelial cells may distinguish LERK-2 from the angiogenic Eck ligand, LERK-1 (B61), and whether endothelial cells from different sources may distinguish among Eph receptor ligands, we compared HRMEC and human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) responses in an in vitro capillary-like assembly assay. HRMEC endothelial cells assembled capillary-like structures in response to LERK-2, but not LERK-1, under conditions that promoted HUVEC to assemble in response to LERK-1, but not LERK-2. Therefore, responses mediated through specific Eph family receptors (ELK and Eck) are discriminated by endothelial cells from different vascular bed sources. ELK and its ligand, LERK-2, are spatially and temporally coordinated in expression and may function in morphogenesis of the renal microvasculature.