The formation of the vascular network is an intricate and complex process that is an obligate requirement during vertebrate development. The cardiovascular system is the first organ to develop and reach a functional state, which underscores the crucial role of the vasculature in the developing embryo. The development of the vasculature into highly branched conduits needs to occur in numerous sites and in precise patterns to supply oxygen and nutrients to the rapidly expanding tissue of the embryo. This process is mediated by the coordinated response of vascular endothelial and mural cells to the heterogeneous angiogenic cues provided by tissues and organs, whereas aberrant regulation and coordination of angiogenic signals during development result in lethality, impaired organ development, or disease states. This article reviews the essential signaling pathways required for establishment of the vertebrate vasculature with a major focus on a key regulatory factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). We also discuss current knowledge of physiological angiogenic processes as well as their disruptions in pathological processes, particularly tumorigenesis.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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