Abstract 604: Targeting Cx43 Prevents Growth Factor-Induced Phenotypic Change in Pig Coronary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells
Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is commonly used to treat atherosclerotic coronary arteries, but its efficacy is limited by restenosis at the site of the intervention. We reported previously that reducing the expression of the gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) in mice restricted neointima formation after acute vascular injury by limiting the inflammatory response as well as the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) towards the damaged site. SMC populations isolated from the pig coronary artery exhibit distinct phenotypes: spindle-shaped (S) and rhomboid (R). S-SMCs are predominant in the normal media, whereas R-SMCs are recovered in higher proportion from stent-induced intimal thickening suggesting that they participate in the intimal thickening. Here, we further investigate the relationship between connexin expression and SMC phenotype using the distinct types of pig coronary artery SMCs. We show that Cx40 was highly expressed in normal media of porcine coronary artery in vivo, whereas Cx43 was barely detectable. In contrast, Cx40 was down-regulated and Cx43 was markedly up-regulated in SMCs of stent-induced intimal thickening. In vitro, S-SMCs expressed Cx40 and Cx43. Cx43 expression was increased in R-SMCs and these cells no longer expressed Cx40. When S-SMCs were treated with 10 ng/ml platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF-BB) they acquired a rhomboid phenotype and their migratory activity increased (from 40.3±5.7 to 185.9±27.3 migrating cells; mean±SEM, N=4, P<0.01). These changes were accompanied by an increase in Cx43 and loss of Cx40 expression. Importantly, PDGF-BB-induced phenotypic change of S-SMCs was prevented by reducing Cx43 expression with 100 uM antisense for Cx43. Thus, Cx43 antisense-treated SMCs retained their typical elongated appearance and the expression of some SMC differentiation markers, such as alpha-SM actin, whereas the appearance of S100A4, a typical marker of R-SMCs, was prevented. In conclusion, limiting Cx43 expression in SMCs prevents growth factor-induced changes towards a deleterious phenotype. Our findings suggest that Cx43 might be an additional target for local delivery strategies aimed at reducing restenosis after PCI.