Rationale: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling is a key pathway for angiogenesis and requires highly coordinated regulation. Although the Notch pathway-mediated suppression of excessive VEGF activity via negative feedback is well known, the positive feedback control for augmenting VEGF signaling remains poorly understood. Transcription factor Sox17 is indispensable for angiogenesis, but its association with VEGF signaling is largely unknown. The contribution of other Sox members to angiogenesis also remains to be determined. Objective: To reveal the genetic interaction of Sox7, another Sox member, with Sox17 in developmental angiogenesis and their functional relationship with VEGF signaling. Methods and Results: Sox7 is expressed specifically in endothelial cells and its global and endothelial-specific deletion resulted in embryonic lethality with severely impaired angiogenesis in mice, substantially overlapping with Sox17 in both expression and function. Interestingly, compound heterozygosity for Sox7 and Sox17 phenocopied vascular defects of Sox7 or Sox17 homozygous knockout, indicating that the genetic cooperation of Sox7 and Sox17 is sensitive to their combined gene dosage. VEGF signaling upregulated both Sox7 and Sox17 expression in angiogenesis via mTOR pathway. Furthermore, Sox7 and Sox17 promoted VEGFR2 (VEGF receptor 2) expression in angiogenic vessels, suggesting a positive feedback loop between VEGF signaling and SoxF. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that SoxF transcription factors are indispensable players in developmental angiogenesis by acting as positive feedback regulators of VEGF signaling.
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