Fujita, M., Cha, Y.R., Pham, V.N., Sakurai, A., Roman, B.L., Gutkind, J.S., and Weinstein, B.M. (2011) Assembly and patterning of the vascular network of the vertebrate hindbrain. Development (Cambridge, England). 138(9):1705-1715.
The cranial vasculature is essential for the survival and development of the central nervous system and is important in stroke and other brain pathologies. Cranial vessels form in a reproducible and evolutionarily conserved manner, but the process by which these vessels assemble and acquire their stereotypic patterning remains unclear. Here, we examine the stepwise assembly and patterning of the vascular network of the zebrafish hindbrain. The major artery supplying the hindbrain, the basilar artery, runs along the ventral keel of the hindbrain in all vertebrates. We show that this artery forms by a novel process of medial sprouting and migration of endothelial cells from a bilateral pair of primitive veins, the primordial hindbrain channels. Subsequently, a second wave of dorsal sprouting from the primordial hindbrain channels gives rise to angiogenic central arteries that penetrate into and innervate the hindbrain. The chemokine receptor cxcr4a is expressed in migrating endothelial cells of the primordial hindbrain channels, whereas its ligand cxcl12b is expressed in the hindbrain neural keel immediately adjacent to the assembling basilar artery. Knockdown of either cxcl12b or cxcr4a results in defects in basilar artery formation, showing that the assembly and patterning of this crucial artery depends on chemokine signaling.