Walter, D. H., U. Hink, T. Asahara, E. VanBelle, J. Horowitz, Y. Tsurumi, R. Vandlen, H. Heinsohn, B. Keyt, N. Ferrara, J. F. Symes and J. M. Isner. The in vivo bioactivity of vascular endothelial growth factor vascular permeability factor is independent of N-linked glycosylation. Laboratory Investigation. 74:546-556, 1996.

The carbohydrate moieties of glycoprotein hormones or growth factor molecules may have a variety of effects that impact biological potency. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), also known as vascular permeability factor (VPF), is a 45 kD heparin-binding, endothelial cell (EC) specific mitogen with a putative N-linked glycosylation site. Recent studies have shown that VEGF/VPF may successfully augment collateral development in animal models of myocardial and hindlimb ischemia. The extent to which glycosylation of the 75 asparagine site affects the angiogenic properties of VEGF/VPF has not been studied in vivo. Specifically unaddressed to date is the concern that nonglycosylated VEGF/VPF may be less stable, and therefore characterized by a shorter half-life, reducing its utility for therapeutic angiogenesis. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which posttranslational modification, specifically glycosylation, modifies the angiogenic properties of VEGF/VPF in vivo. Glycosylated (g+) recombinant human VEGF(165) was purified from media conditioned by Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. Nonglycosylated (g-) VEGF(165) was expressed, purified and refolded from E. coli. The purity of both materials was assessed by silver-stained SDS/PAGE and characterized by the presence of a single amino terminal sequence as indicated by Edman degradation. Tryptic mapping by reverse-phase HPLC confirmed that the potential glycosylation site at 75 asparagine was occupied by N-linked carbohydrate for the Chinese hamster ovary-derived VEGF/VPF, but not for E. coil-derived VEGF/VPF. The mitogenic effects of Chinese hamster ovary-derived (g+) VEGF(165) and E. coli-derived (g-) VEGF(165) were studied in vitro using microvascular EC. At concentrations of VEGF/VPF ranging from 10(-4) to 10(2) nM, both produced similar concentration-dependent effects on EC proliferation. For in vivo studies, (g-) (n = 8) and (g+) (n = 8) formulations of VEGF/VPF were administered to New Zealand white rabbits with unilateral hindlimb ischemia. For (g-) versus (g+) VEGF/VPF-treated groups, respectively, calf blood pressure ratio was 0.40 +/- 0.04 versus 0.37 +/- 0.04; angiographic score (of collateral vessels) was 0.37 +/- 0.04 versus 0.35 +/- 0.04; capillary density (capillaries/mm(2)) at necropsy was 246.9 +/- 21.5 versus 253.9 +/- 18.8; and tissue perfusion (colored microspheres) was 92.8 +/- 5.5 versus 90.30 +/- 13.47 (all p = ns). Moreover, intravascular Doppler-based analyses of resting, maximum, and endothelium-dependent flow was similar for (g-) and (g+) VEGF/VPF. These in vitro and in vivo findings establish that the potential for VEGF/VPF to stimulate therapeutic angiogenesis persists unaltered in the nonglycosylated state.