Downregulation of c-myc expression by antisense oligonucleotides inhibits proliferation of human smooth muscle cells.
BACKGROUND Proliferation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) plays an important role in vascular pathobiology, being involved in the development of coronary restenosis and atherosclerosis. The activation of nuclear proto-oncogenes appears to be a final common pathway onto which various mitogenic signals coverage. Accordingly, we attempted to determine whether the activation of the c-myc nuclear proto-oncogene is essential for human SMC proliferation and explored the possibility of inhibiting their growth using antisense oligonucleotides directed against c-myc messenger RNA (mRNA).
METHODS AND RESULTS Proliferation of human SMCs was associated with an increase in c-myc mRNA expression after growth stimulation. Using 15-mer phosphorothioate oligonucleotides (oligomers), we tested their growth-inhibitory effect in SMCs in vitro. Antisense oligomers directed against the translation initiation region of the human c-myc gene exhibited a significant antiproliferative effect, whereas sense and mismatched oligomers did not inhibit the growth. The growth-inhibitory effect of c-myc antisense oligomers was dose dependent and preventable by an excess of sense oligomers. Furthermore, growth inhibition of SMCs treated with c-myc antisense oligomers was associated with a marked decrease in the c-myc mRNA level. Phosphorothioate oligomers remained stable in medium containing 20% serum and were detectable in SMCs as early as 1 hour after cell exposure. Intact oligomers rapidly accumulated intracellularly and persisted within human SMCs for at least 16 hours.
CONCLUSIONS c-myc antisense oligomers reduced c-myc expression and produced a significant growth inhibition of human SMCs, indicating an important role of c-myc gene activation in the process of SMC proliferation. Furthermore, extracellular stability and rapid cellular uptake provide the basis for future studies assessing the therapeutic role of the c-myc antisense approach in reducing SMC proliferation in the process of vascular restenosis.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association