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SM Gifford, MA Grummer, SA Pierre, JL Austin, J Zheng, and IM Bird

While many endothelial cell lines exist, few are of human origin with characteristics close to the parent endothelial cell. We derived a subline (HUVEC-CS) of immortalized human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC-C) that proliferate in standard growth media and exhibit positive acetylated low-density lipoprotein (AcLDL) uptake, express eNOS, CD31 and ve-cadherin, and spontaneously form capillary-like structures when grown on Matrigel. HUVEC-CS also maintain endothelial cell characteristics at the level of mitogenesis, kinase activation and vasodilator production. Like primary HUVEC cells, HUVEC-CS express many of the key proteins necessary for vasodilator production, including epithelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), HSP 90, cav-1 and -2, cPLA2, and COX-1 and -2. Prostaglandin I synthase (PGIS) was not detectable by Western blot analysis, consistent with primary HUVEC in which PGI2 production is minimal. Receptors were detected for angiotensin II (AII), bradykinin, ATP and growth factors. ATP induced a dose- and time-dependent rise in the intracellular free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). Initially, ATP stimulates P2Y receptors rather than P2X receptors, as demonstrated by the inability of ATP to initiate a Ca2+ response subsequent to emptying of the internal Ca2+ stores by thapsigargin. AII, bradykinin, epidermal growth factor (EGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) also caused a rise in [Ca2+]i in a subset of the cells. ATP, basic fibroblastic growth factor (bFGF), EGF and VEGF induced mitogenesis and caused a rise in ERK 2 activation within 10 min. L-Arginine to L-citrulline conversion assays showed that ATP, EGF and VEGF induced a significant rise in eNOS activity, and this correlates with an ability to induce Ca2+ mobilization and ERK 2 activation. In conclusion, HUVEC-CS are indeed endothelial cells and appear to be functionally very similar to primary HUVEC. These cells will prove a valuable tool for future studies in both basic and therapeutic sciences.