Primary cilia sensitize endothelial cells to BMP and prevent excessive vascular regression


  • A.C. Vion
  • S. Alt
  • A. Klaus-Bergmann
  • A. Szymborska
  • T. Zheng
  • T. Perovic
  • A. Hammoutene
  • M.B. Oliveira
  • E. Bartels-Klein
  • I. Hollfinger
  • P.E. Rautou
  • M.O. Bernabeu
  • H. Gerhardt


  • Journal of Cell Biology


  • J Cell Biol 217 (5): 1651-1665


  • Blood flow shapes vascular networks by orchestrating endothelial cell behavior and function. How endothelial cells read and interpret flow-derived signals is poorly understood. Here, we show that endothelial cells in the developing mouse retina form and use luminal primary cilia to stabilize vessel connections selectively in parts of the remodeling vascular plexus experiencing low and intermediate shear stress. Inducible genetic deletion of the essential cilia component intraflagellar transport protein 88 (IFT88) in endothelial cells caused premature and random vessel regression without affecting proliferation, cell cycle progression, or apoptosis. IFT88 mutant cells lacking primary cilia displayed reduced polarization against blood flow, selectively at low and intermediate flow levels, and have a stronger migratory behavior. Molecularly, we identify that primary cilia endow endothelial cells with strongly enhanced sensitivity to bone morphogenic protein 9 (BMP9), selectively under low flow. We propose that BMP9 signaling cooperates with the primary cilia at low flow to keep immature vessels open before high shear stress-mediated remodeling.