Endothelial cells (ECs) lining the blood vessels serve a variety of functions and play a central role in the homeostasis of the circulatory system. Since the ductus arteriosus (DA) has different arterial characteristics from its connecting vessels, we hypothesized that ECs of the DA exhibited a unique gene profile involved in the regulation of DA-specific morphology and function. Using a fluorescence-activated cell sorter, we isolated ECs from pooled tissues from the DA or the descending aorta of Wistar rat fetuses at full-term of gestation (F group) or neonates 30 minutes after birth (N group). Using anti-CD31 and anti-CD45 antibodies as cell surface markers for ECs and hematopoietic derived cells, respectively, cDNAs from the CD31-positive and CD45-negative cells were hybridized to the Affymetrix GeneChip® Rat Gene 1.0 ST Array. Among 26,469 gene-level probe sets, 82 genes in the F group and 81 genes in the N group were expressed at higher levels in DA ECs than in aortic ECs (p<0.05, fold change>2.0). In addition to well-known endothelium-enriched genes such as Tgfb2 and Vegfa, novel DA endothelium-dominant genes including Slc38a1, Capn6, and Lrat were discovered. Enrichment analysis using GeneGo MetaCore software showed that DA endothelium-related biological processes were involved in morphogenesis and development. We identified many overlapping genes in each process including neural crest-related genes (Hoxa1, Hoxa4, and Hand2, etc) and the second heart field-related genes (Tbx1, Isl1, and Fgf10, etc). Moreover, we found that regulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, cell adhesion, and retinol metabolism are the active pathways involved in the network via potential interactions with many of the identified genes to form DA-specific endothelia. In conclusion, the present study uncovered several significant differences of the transcriptional profile between the DA and aortic ECs. Newly identified DA endothelium-dominant genes may play an important role in DA-specific functional and morphologic characteristics.
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