Electrostatic cell-surface repulsion initiates lumen formation in developing blood vessels

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Boris Strilić - (Author)
  • Jan Eglinger - (Author)
  • Michael Krieg - , Dresden University of Technology (Author)
  • Martin Zeeb - (Author)
  • Jennifer Axnick - (Author)
  • Pavel Babál - (Author)
  • Daniel J. Müller - , Chair of Cellular Machines, ETH Zurich (Author)
  • Eckhard Lammert - (Author)


Blood vessels function in the uptake, transport, and delivery of gases and nutrients within the body. A key question is how the central lumen of blood vessels develops within a cord of vascular endothelial cells. Here, we demonstrate that sialic acids of apical glycoproteins localize to apposing endothelial cell surfaces and generate repelling electrostatic fields within an endothelial cell cord. Both in vitro and in vivo experiments show that the negative charge of sialic acids is required for the separation of endothelial cell surfaces and subsequent lumen formation. We also demonstrate that sulfate residues can substitute for sialic acids during lumen initiation. These results therefore reveal a key step in the creation of blood vessels, the most abundant conduits in the vertebrate body. Because negatively charged mucins and proteoglycans are often found on luminal cell surfaces, it is possible that electrostatic repulsion is a general principle also used to initiate lumen formation in other organs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2003-2009
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent biology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2010

External IDs

PubMed 20970336