Angiogenesis is the process by which new vessels form from existing vascular networks. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) may contribute to the study of vascular repair and angiogenesis. The chemokine CXCL12 regulates multiple cell functions, including angiogenesis, mainly through its receptor CXCR4. In contrast to CXCL12/CXCR4, few studies have described roles for CXCR7 in vascular biology, and the downstream mechanism of CXCR7 in angiogenesis remains unclear. The results of the present study showed that CXCL12 dose-dependently enhanced angiogenesis in chorioallantoic membranes (CAMs) and HUVECs. The specific activation of CXCR7 with TC14012 (a CXCR7 agonist) resulted in the significant induction of tube formation in HUVECs and in vivo. Further evidence suggested that CXCL12 induced directional polarization and migration in the HUVECs, which is necessary for tube formation. Moreover, CXCR7 translocalization was observed during the polarization of HUVECs in stripe assays. Finally, treatment with TC14012 also significantly increased PI3K/Akt phosphorylation, and tube formation was blocked by treating HUVECs with an Akt inhibitor. Overall, this study indicated that CXCL12-stimulated CXCR7 acts as a functional receptor to activate Akt for angiogenesis in HUVECs and that CXCR7 may be a potential target molecule for endothelial regeneration and repair after vascular injury.
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