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Vascular endothelial growth factor/vascular permeability factor is an autocrine growth factor for AIDS–Kaposi sarcoma

The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Publication Date
  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is the most common tumor associated with HIV-1 infection and develops in nearly 30% of cases. The principal features of this tumor are abnormal vascularization and the proliferation of endothelial cells and spindle (tumor) cells. KS-derived spindle cells induce vascular lesions and display enhanced vascular permeability when inoculated subcutaneously in the nude mouse. This finding suggests that angiogenesis and capillary permeability play a central role in the development and progression of KS. In this study, we show that AIDS–KS cell lines express higher levels of vascular endothelial growth factor/vascular permeability factor (VEGF/VGF) than either human umbilical vein endothelial cells or human aortic smooth muscle cells. AIDS–KS cells and primary tumor tissues also expressed high levels of Flt-1 and KDR, the receptors for VEGF, while the normal skin of the same patients did not show any expression. We further demonstrate that VEGF antisense oligonucleotides AS-1 and AS-3 specifically block VEGF mRNA and protein production and inhibit KS cell growth in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, growth of KS cells in nude mice was specifically inhibited by VEGF antisense oligonucleotides. These results show that VEGF is an autocrine growth factor for AIDS–KS cells. To our knowledge, this is the first report that shows that VEGF acts as a growth stimulator in a human tumor. Inhibitors of VEGF or its cognate receptors may thus be candidates for therapeutic intervention.

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