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Oncogene. 1999 Apr 1;18(13):2221-30.

VEGF activates protein kinase C-dependent, but Ras-independent Raf-MEK-MAP kinase pathway for DNA synthesis in primary endothelial cells.

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Department of Genetics, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Japan.


KDR/FIk-1 tyrosine kinase, one of the two VEGF receptors induces mitogenesis and differentiation of vascular endothelial cells. We have previously reported that a major target molecule of KDR/Flk-1 kinase is PLC-gamma, and that VEGF induces activation of MAP kinase, mainly mediated by protein kinase C (PKC) in the NIH3T3 cells overexpressing KDR/FIk-1 (Takahashi and Shibuya, 1997). However, the signal transduction initiated from VEGF in endothelial cells remains to be elucidated. In primary sinusoidal endothelial cells which showed strictly VEGF-dependent growth, we found that VEGF stimulated the activation of Raf-1-MEK-MAP kinase cascade. To our surprise, an important regulator, Ras was not efficiently activated to a significant level in response to VEGF. Consistent with this, dominant-negative Ras did not block the VEGF-induced phosphorylation of MAP kinase. On the other hand, PKC-specific inhibitors severely reduced VEGF-dependent phosphorylation of MEK, activation of MAP kinase and subsequent DNA synthesis. A potent PI3 kinase inhibitor, Wortmannin, could not inhibit either of them. These results suggest that in primary endothelial cells, VEGF-induced activation of Raf-MEK-MAP kinase and DNA synthesis are mainly mediated by PKC-dependent pathway, much more than by Ras-dependent or PI3 kinase-dependent pathway.

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