Phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs), such as increased proliferation, enhanced migration, and downregulation of SMC differentiation marker genes, is known to play a key role in the development of atherosclerosis. However, the factors and mechanisms controlling this process are not fully understood. We recently showed that oxidized phospholipids, including 1-palmitoyl-2-(5-oxovaleroyl)-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POVPC), which accumulate in atherosclerotic lesions, are potent repressors of expression of SMC differentiation marker genes in cultured SMCs as well as in rat carotid arteries in vivo. Here, we examined the molecular mechanisms whereby POVPC induces suppression of SMC differentiation marker genes in cultured SMCs. Results showed that POVPC induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and Elk-1. The MEK inhibitors U-0126 and PD-98059 attenuated POVPC-induced suppression of smooth muscle (SM) α-actin and SM-myosin heavy chain. POVPC also induced expression of Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4). Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed that POVPC caused simultaneous binding of Elk-1 and Klf4 to the promoter region of the SM α-actin gene. Moreover, coimmunoprecipitation assays showed a physical interaction between Elk-1 and Klf4. Results in Klf4-null SMCs showed that blockade of both Klf4 induction and Elk-1 phosphorylation completely abolished POVPC-induced suppression of SMC differentiation marker genes. POVPC-induced suppression of SMC differentiation marker genes was also accompanied by hypoacetylation of histone H4 at the SM α-actin promoter, which was mediated by the recruitment of histone deacetylases (HDACs), HDAC2 and HDAC5. Coimmunoprecipitation assays showed that Klf4 interacted with HDAC5. Results provide evidence that Klf4, Elk-1, and HDACs coordinately mediate POVPC-induced suppression of SMC differentiation marker genes.
- Extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2
- Gene transcription
- Histone acetylation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology