Vascular network density determines the amount of oxygen and nutrients delivered to host tissues, but how the vast diversity of densities is generated is unknown. Reiterations of endothelial-tip-cell selection, sprout extension and anastomosis are the basis for vascular network generation, a process governed by VEGF/Notch feedback loop. Here, we find that temporal regulation of this feedback loop, a previously unexplored dimension, is the key mechanism to determine vascular density. Iterating between computational modeling and in vivo live imaging, we demonstrate that the rate of tip-cell selection determines the length of linear sprout extension at the expense of branching, dictating network density. We provide the first example of a host tissue-derived signal (Semaphorin3E-Plexin-D1) that accelerates tip cell selection rate, yielding a dense network. We propose that temporal regulation of this critical, iterative aspect of network formation could be a general mechanism, and additional temporal regulators may exist to sculpt vascular topology.
2016. Vol. 5