Angiogenesis is the process of formation of new vessels from pre-existing ones. It is a very important mechanism involved in cancer development. Indeed, many tumours need oxygen and nutrients provided by the blood to progress, and exploit the blood flow to metastasise. Endothelial cells constitute the first layer of the vessel wall and are the major cell players in the angiogenic process. Endothelial cells orchestrate a multitude of biological processes that trigger the formation of new and mature vessels – they sprout, digest and migrate through the extracellular matrix, change morphology and recruit mural cells. A better understanding of the regulation of these processes will be helpful to identify new targets for pro- and anti-angiogenic therapy in cancer.
High accuracy mass spectrometry (MS) in combination with quantitative approaches, such as SILAC (stable isotope labelling with amino acids in cell culture), is a key technology to perform in depth proteomic studies of cells and tissues. With this technique it is possible to identify and quantify thousands of proteins and post-translational modifications, for example phosphorylations, in single experiment.
In our lab, we apply a unique combination of state-of-the-art MS (LTQ-Orbitrap Elite) and quantitative proteomic approaches (SILAC) with molecular and cellular biology techniques to study the complexity of the molecular mechanisms regulating endothelial cells, in vitro and in vivo, during angiogenesis in cancer.