Alberto Mantovani and Elisabetta Dejana, Department of Biomedical Science and Biotechnology, University of Degli Studi Di Brescia, Brescia, Italy

Endothelial cells have long been perceived as a 'sheet of nucleated cellophane', a 'passive' lining of vessels, endowed with negative properties, the most crucial one being that of representing a nonthrombogenic substrate for blood. As such, endothelial cells were viewed to participate in tissue reactions essentially as targets for injurious agents. In the last few years, endothelial cells have emerged as active participants in a variety of physiologic and pathologic processes. In particular, the ontogeny and function of white blood cells requires an intimate relationship with vascular endothelial cells. The endothelial cells are an important constituent of the hematopoietic microenvironment of the bone marrow and produce colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) which regulate hematopoiesis. The recirculation and homing of lymphocytes is accomplished via interaction with endothelial cell structures and these cells can activate specific immunity by presenting antigen. Finally, the effector arm of immunity, inflammatory reactions and hemostasis involve close interactions between leukocytes and vascular cells.

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