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Open Access Open Badges Research

Two distinct types of the inhibition of vasculogenesis by different species of charged particles

Peter Grabham1*, Preety Sharma1, Alan Bigelow2 and Charles Geard1

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University, VC 11-205A/243, 630 West 168th street, New York, NY 10032, USA

2 Radiological Research Accelerator Facility, Center for Radiological Research, Nevis Laboratory, Columbia University, 136 S. Broadway, Irvington, NY 10533, USA

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Vascular Cell 2013, 5:16  doi:10.1186/2045-824X-5-16

Published: 17 September 2013



Charged particle radiation is known to be more biologically effective than photon radiation. One example of this is the inhibition of the formation of human blood vessels. This effect is an important factor influencing human health and is relevant to space travel as well as to cancer radiotherapy. We have previously shown that ion particles with a high energy deposition, or linear energy transfer (LET) are more than four times more effective at disrupting mature vessel tissue models than particles with a lower LET. For vasculogenesis however, the relative biological effectiveness between particles is the same. This unexpected result prompted us to investigate whether the inhibition of vasculogenesis was occurring by distinct mechanisms.


Using 3-Dimensional human vessel models, we developed assays that determine at what stage angiogenesis is inhibited. Vessel morphology, the presence of motile tip structures, and changes in the matrix architecture were assessed. To confirm that the mechanisms are distinct, stimulation of Protein Kinase C (PKC) with phorbol ester (PMA) was employed to selectively restore vessel formation in cultures where early motile tip activity was inhibited.


Endothelial cells in 3-D culture exposed to low LET protons failed to make connections with other cells but eventually developed a central lumen. Conversely, cells exposed to high LET Fe charged particles extended cellular processes and made connections to other cells but did not develop a central lumen. The microtubule and actin cytoskeletons indicated that motility at the extending tips of endothelial cells is inhibited by low LET but not high LET particles. Actin-rich protrusive structures that contain bundled microtubules showed a 65% decrease when exposed to low LET particles but not high LET particles, with commensurate changes in the matrix architecture. Stimulation of PKC with PMA restored tip motility and capillary formation in low but not high LET particle treated cultures.


Low LET charged particles inhibit the early stages of vasculogenesis when tip cells have motile protrusive structures and are creating pioneer guidance tunnels through the matrix. High LET charged particles do not affect the early stages of vasculogenesis but they do affect the later stages when the endothelial cells migrate to form tubes.

Vasculogenesis; Charged particle; Radiation; Linear energy transfer; 3-D human vessel models; Motile tips