Abstract 1172: Neointima Formation is Dependent on p38α Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase
Neointima formation frequently occurs after arterial injury and is responsible for substantial human morbidity. We previously demonstrated that the intracellular linker protein Grb2 is required for neointima formation, and that Grb2 regulates p38α mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation in vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs). In this work, the role of p38α MAPK in neointima formation was examined. In vitro experiments showed that pharmacological inhibition of p38 MAPK activity in cultured SMCs blocked platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-stimulated DNA replication and cell proliferation. Specifically, in control SMCs, overnight stimulation with PDGF induced an 11.8-fold increase in thymidine incorporation and a 1.9 fold increase in cell number. However, inhibition of p38 MAPK activity reduced PDGF-induced thymidine incorporation to 2.8-fold (P = 0.0006) and completely blocked PDGF-stimulated cell proliferation (P = 0.0001). Also, p38 MAPK activity was required for PDGF-induced inactivation of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein, Rb, and induction of mini-chromosome maintenance protein-6 (MCM6), a fundamental regulator of DNA replication. Next, compound transgenic mice were generated with doxycycline (Dox)-inducible, SMC-specific expression of a dominant-negative form of p38α MAPK (SMC-DN-p38α ). Dox induced robust expression of DN-p38α mRNA and protein in the aorta and carotid arteries of compound transgenic mice, and inactivation of native, arterial p38 MAPK. SMC-DN-p38α and single transgenic, control mice were subjected to carotid injury by use of an epoxy resin-beaded probe. After 21 days, control mice developed robust neointima formation that frequently resulted in an occlusive lesion with a mean neointima/media ratio of 2.62 (N = 8). In contrast, SMC-DN-p38α mice were resistant to the development of neointima. Specifically, neointima/media ratio was reduced to 0.63 for SMC-DN-p38α mice (N = 12; P = 0.045). In addition, compared to control mice, injured carotid arteries of SMC-DN-p38α mice showed defective p38 MAPK activation in SMCs of the tunica media. Our results demonstrate that vascular SMC p38α MAPK is required for neointima formation after arterial injury.