Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 (VEGFR-3) is a major mediator of lymphangiogenesis. Recently, VEGFR-3 ligands, VEGF-C, and VEGF-D were reported to promote tumor lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic metastasis, and these processes were inhibited by blocking of the VEGFR-3-signaling pathway. Here, we have adapted the mouse corneal angiogenesis assay to study potential lymphangiogenic factors and inhibitors. Immunohistochemical analysis with lymphatic endothelial markers showed that VEGF-C induces lymphatic as well as blood vessel growth in the cornea. By contrast, VEGF induced angiogenesis but not lymphangiogenesis. Fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) stimulated both lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis. FGF-2 up-regulated VEGF-C expression in vascular endothelial and perivascular cells. Furthermore, administration of blocking anti-VEGFR-3 antibodies inhibited the FGF-2-induced lymphangiogenesis. These findings show that VEGFR-3 can mediate lymphangiogenesis induced by other growth factors. Because increased expression of FGF-2 and VEGF-C has been associated with lymphatic metastasis, our results provide a potential strategy for the inhibition of lymphatic metastasis in cancer therapy.
2002. Vol. 99, no 13