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OBJECTIVE: Apoptosis of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) contributes to thinning and rupture of the atherosclerotic plaque fibrous cap and is thereby associated with myocardial infarction. Wnt protein activation of β-catenin regulates numerous genes that are associated with cell survival. We therefore investigated Wnt/β-catenin survival signaling in VSMCs and assessed the presence of this pathway in human atherosclerotic plaques at various stages of the disease process.
APPROACH AND RESULTS: Wnt5a induced β-catenin/T-cell factor signaling and retarded oxidative stress (H2O2)-induced apoptosis in mouse aortic VSMCs. Quantification of mRNA levels revealed a >4-fold (P<0.05; n=9) increase in the expression of the Wnt/β-catenin responsive gene, Wnt1-inducible secreted protein-1 (WISP-1), which was dependent on cAMP response element-binding protein and sustained in the presence of H2O2. Exogenous WISP-1 significantly reduced H2O2-induced apoptosis by 43% (P<0.05; n=3) and was shown using silencing small interfering RNA, to be important for Wnt5a-dependent survival responses to H2O2 (P<0.05; n=3). WISP-1 protein levels were significantly lower (≈50%) in unstable atherosclerosis compared with stable plaques (n=11 and n=14).
CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate for the first time that Wnt5a induces β-catenin survival signaling in VSMCs via WISP-1. The deficiency of the novel survival factor, WISP-1 in intimal VSMCs of unstable coronary plaques, suggests that there is altered Wnt/β-catenin/ T-cell factor signaling with progressive atherosclerosis, and restoration of WISP-1 protein might be an effective stabilization factor for vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques.
|Journal||Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology|
|Publication status||Published - 11 Sep 2014|