Persistent microvascular hyperpermeability to plasma proteins even after the cessation of injury is a characteristic but poorly understood feature of normal wound healing. It results in extravasation of fibrinogen that clots to form fibrin, which serves as a provisional matrix and promotes angiogenesis and scar formation. We present evidence indicating that vascular permeability factor (VPF; also known as vascular endothelial growth factor) may be responsible for the hyperpermeable state, as well as the angiogenesis, that are characteristic of healing wounds. Hyperpermeable blood vessels were identified in healing split-thickness guinea pig and rat punch biopsy skin wounds by their capacity to extravasate circulating macromolecular tracers (colloidal carbon, fluoresceinated dextran). Vascular permeability was maximal at 2-3 d, but persisted as late as 7 d after wounding. Leaky vessels were found initially at the wound edges and later in the subepidermal granulation tissue as keratinocytes migrated to cover the denuded wound surface. Angiogenesis was also prominent within this 7-d interval. In situ hybridization revealed that greatly increased amounts of VPF mRNA were expressed by keratinocytes, initially those at the wound edge, and, at later intervals, keratinocytes that migrated to cover the wound surface; occasional mononuclear cells also expressed VPF mRNA. Secreted VPF was detected by immunofluoroassay of medium from cultured human keratinocytes. These data identify keratinocytes as an important source of VPF gene transcript and protein, correlate VPF expression with persistent vascular hyperpermeability and angiogenesis, and suggest that VPF is an important cytokine in wound healing.

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