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Active Oxygen Species Stimulate Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Growth And Proto-oncogene Expression.

G N Rao, B C Berk

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Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) proliferate in response to arterial injury. Recent findings suggest that, in addition to platelet-derived growth factors, growth factors from inflammatory cells and endothelial cells at the site of injury may contribute to VSMC proliferation. We hypothesized that a common mechanism by which endothelial cells and inflammatory cells stimulate VSMC growth could be the active oxygen species (i.e., O2-, H2O2, and .OH) generated during arterial injury. Using xanthine/xanthine oxidase to generate active oxygen species, we studied the effects of these agents on VSMC growth. Xanthine/xanthine oxidase (100 microM xanthine and 5 microunits/ml xanthine oxidase) stimulated DNA synthesis in growth-arrested VSMCs by 180% over untreated cells. Administration of the scavenging enzymes superoxide dismutase and catalase demonstrated that H2O2 was primarily responsible for xanthine/xanthine oxidase-induced VSMC DNA synthesis. H2O2 directly increased VSMC DNA synthesis and cell number (maximal at 200 microM) but decreased DNA synthesis of endothelial cells and fibroblasts. This effect was protein kinase C independent: sphingosine, a potent protein kinase C inhibitor, failed to block H2O2-induced VSMC DNA synthesis. H2O2 (200 microM) stimulated c-myc and c-fos mRNA levels by fourfold and 20-fold, respectively, as compared with quiescent levels. In contrast to DNA synthesis, H2O2 induction of c-myc and c-fos mRNA was primarily protein kinase C dependent. These findings show that H2O2 specifically increases VSMC DNA synthesis and suggest a role for this oxidant in intimal proliferation, especially after arterial injury.