Microgravity simulation activates Cdc42 via Rap1GDS1 to promote vascular branch morphogenesis during vasculogenesis

Shouli Wang, Zhao Yin, Bei Zhao, Yanmei Qi, Jie Liu, Saum A. Rahimi, Leonard Y. Lee, Shaohua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Gravity plays an important role in normal tissue maintenance. The ability of stem cells to repair tissue loss in space through regeneration and differentiation remains largely unknown. To investigate the impact of microgravity on blood vessel formation from pluripotent stem cells, we employed the embryoid body (EB) model for vasculogenesis and simulated microgravity by clinorotation. We first differentiated mouse embryonic stem cells into cystic EBs containing two germ layers and then analyzed vessel formation under clinorotation. We observed that endothelial cell differentiation was slightly reduced under clinorotation, whereas vascular branch morphogenesis was markedly enhanced. EB-derived endothelial cells migrated faster, displayed multiple cellular processes, and had higher Cdc42 and Rac1 activity when subjected to clinorotation. Genetic analysis and rescue experiments demonstrated that Cdc42 but not Rac1 is required for microgravity-induced vascular branch morphogenesis. Furthermore, affinity pull-down assay and mass spectrometry identified Rap1GDS1 to be a Cdc42 guanine nucleotide exchange factor, which was upregulated by clinorotation. shRNA-mediated knockdown of Rap1GDS1 selectively suppressed Cdc42 activation and inhibited both baseline and microgravity-induced vasculogenesis. This was rescued by ectopic expression of constitutively active Cdc42. Taken together, these results support the notion that simulated microgravity activates Cdc42 via Rap1GDS1 to promote vascular branch morphogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-165
Number of pages9
JournalStem Cell Research
StatePublished - Dec 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Microgravity
  • Rap1GDS1
  • Rho GTPases
  • Vasculogenesis


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