Leptomeningeal anastomoses or pial collateral vessels play a critical role in cerebral blood flow (CBF) restoration following ischemic stroke. The magnitude of this adaptive response is postulated to be controlled by the endothelium, although the underlying molecular mechanisms remain under investigation. Here we demonstrated that endothelial genetic deletion, using EphA4fl/fl/Tie2-Cre and EphA4fl/fl/VeCahderin-CreERT2 mice and vessel painting strategies, implicated EphA4 receptor tyrosine kinase as a major suppressor of pial collateral remodeling, CBF, and functional recovery following permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion. Pial collateral remodeling is limited by the crosstalk between EphA4-Tie2 signaling in vascular endothelial cells, which is mediated through p-Akt regulation. Furthermore, peptide inhibition of EphA4 resulted in acceleration of the pial arteriogenic response. Our findings demonstrate that EphA4 is a negative regulator of Tie2 receptor signaling, which limits pial collateral arteriogenesis following cerebrovascular occlusion. Therapeutic targeting of EphA4 and/or Tie2 represents an attractive new strategy for improving collateral function, neural tissue health, and functional recovery following ischemic stroke.
Benjamin Okyere, William A. Mills III, Xia Wang, Michael Chen, Jiang Chen, Amanda Hazy, Yun Qian, John B. Matson, Michelle H. Theus