Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Eugenie S. Kleinerman, MD

Committee Member

Patrick Zweidler-McKay, MD, PhD

Committee Member

Lee M Ellis, MD

Committee Member

Michelle Barton, PhD

Committee Member

Joseph H McCarty, PhD


We have previously shown that vasculogenesis, the process by which bone marrow-derived cells are recruited to the tumor and organized to form a blood vessel network de novo, is essential for the growth of Ewing’s sarcoma. We further demonstrated that these bone marrow cells differentiate into pericytes/vascular smooth muscle cells(vSMC) and contribute to the formation of the functional vascular network. The molecular mechanisms that control bone marrow cell differentiation into pericytes/vSMC in Ewing’s sarcoma are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that the Notch ligand Delta like ligand 4 (DLL4) plays a critical role in this process. DLL4 is essential for the formation of mature blood vessels during development and in several tumor models. Inhibition of DLL4 causes increased vascular sprouting, decreased pericyte coverage, and decreased vessel functionality. We demonstrate for the first time that DLL4 is expressed by bone marrow-derived pericytes/vascular smooth muscle cells in two Ewing’s sarcoma xenograft models and by perivascular cells in 12 out of 14 patient samples. Using dominant negative mastermind to inhibit Notch, we demonstrate that Notch signaling is essential for bone marrow cell participation in vasculogenesis. Further, inhibition of DLL4 using either shRNA or the monoclonal DLL4 neutralizing antibody YW152F led to dramatic changes in blood vessel morphology and function. Vessels in tumors where DLL4 was inhibited were smaller, lacked lumens, had significantly reduced numbers of bone marrow-derived pericyte/vascular smooth muscle cells, and were less functional. Importantly, growth of TC71 and A4573 tumors was significantly inhibited by treatment with YW152F. Additionally, we provide in vitro evidence that DLL4-Notch signaling is involved in bone marrow-derived pericyte/vascular smooth muscle cell formation outside of the Ewing’s sarcoma environment. Pericyte/vascular smooth muscle cell marker expression by whole bone marrow cells cultured with mouse embryonic stromal cells was reduced when DLL4 was inhibited by YW152F. For the first time, our findings demonstrate a role for DLL4 in bone marrow-derived pericyte/vascular smooth muscle differentiation as well as a critical role for DLL4 in Ewing’s sarcoma tumor growth.


Notch, DLL4, vasculogenesis, Ewing's sarcoma, pericytes, vascular smooth muscle cells