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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009 Dec;297(6):H2253-61. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00274.2009. Epub 2009 Oct 16.

Caspase-mediated protein kinase C-delta cleavage is necessary for apoptosis of vascular smooth muscle cells.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, USA.


Apoptotic death of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) is a prominent feature of blood vessel remodeling and various vascular diseases. We have previously shown that protein kinase C-delta (PKC-delta) plays a critical role in SMC apoptosis. In this study, we tested the importance of PKC-delta proteolytic cleavage and tyrosine phosphorylation within the apoptosis pathway. Using hydrogen peroxide as a paradigm for oxidative stress, we showed that proteolytic cleavage of PKC-delta occurred in SMCs that underwent apoptosis, while tyrosine phosphorylation was detected only in necrotic cells. Furthermore, using a peptide (z-DIPD-fmk) that mimics the caspase-3 binding motif within the linker region of PKC-delta, we were able to prevent the cleavage of PKC-delta, as well as apoptosis. Inhibition of PKC-delta with rottlerin or small-interfering RNA diminished caspase-3 cleavage, caspase-3 activity, cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, cleavage of PKC-delta, and DNA fragmentation, confirming the previously reported role of PKC-delta in initiation of apoptosis. In contrast, z-DIPD-fmk markedly diminished caspase-3 activity, cleavage of PKC-delta, and DNA fragmentation without affecting cleavage of caspase-3 and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. Taken together, our data suggest that caspase-3-mediated PKC-delta cleavage underlies SMC apoptosis induced by oxidative stress, and that PKC-delta acts both upstream and downstream of caspase-3.

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