Walls JR, Coultas L, Rossant J, Henkelman RM (2008) Three-Dimensional Analysis of Vascular Development in the Mouse Embryo. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2853. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002853
Key vasculogenic (de-novo vessel forming) and angiogenic (vessel remodelling) events occur in the mouse embryo between embryonic days (E) 8.0 and 10.0 of gestation, during which time the vasculature develops from a simple circulatory loop into a complex, fine structured, three-dimensional organ. Interpretation of vascular phenotypes exhibited by signalling pathway mutants has historically been hindered by an inability to comprehensively image the normal sequence of events that shape the basic architecture of the early mouse vascular system. We have employed Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) using frequency distance relationship (FDR)-based deconvolution to image embryos immunostained with the endothelial specific marker PECAM-1 to create a high resolution, three-dimensional atlas of mouse vascular development between E8.0 and E10.0 (5 to 30 somites). Analysis of the atlas has provided significant new information regarding normal development of intersomitic vessels, the perineural vascular plexus, the cephalic plexus and vessels connecting the embryonic and extraembryonic circulation. We describe examples of vascular remodelling that provide new insight into the mechanisms of sprouting angiogenesis, vascular guidance cues and artery/vein identity that directly relate to phenotypes observed in mouse mutants affecting vascular development between E8.0 and E10.0. This atlas is freely available at http://www.mouseimaging.ca/research/mouse_atlas.html and will serve as a platform to provide insight into normal and abnormal vascular development.