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Cell Signal. 2000 Jul;12(7):435-45.

Mechanical stress-initiated signal transductions in vascular smooth muscle cells.

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Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-6020, Innsbruck, Austria.


Mechanical force is an important modulator of cellular morphology and function in a variety of tissues, and is particularly important in cardiovascular systems. Vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) hypertrophy and proliferation contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, hypertension, and restenosis, where mechanical forces are largely disturbed. How VSMCs sense and transduce the extracellular mechanical signals into the cell nucleus resulting in quantitative and qualitative changes in gene expression is an interesting and important research field. Recently, it has been demonstrated that mechanical stress rapidly induced phosphorylation of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor, activation of integrin receptor, stretch-activated cation channels, and G proteins, which might serve as mechanosensors. Once mechanical force is sensed, protein kinase C and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) were activated, leading to increased c-fos and c-jun gene expression and enhanced transcription factor AP-1 DNA-binding activity. Interestingly, physical forces also rapidly resulted in expression of MAPK phosphatase-1 (MKP-1), which inactivates MAPKs. Thus, mechanical stresses can directly stretch the cell membrane and alter receptor or G protein conformation, thereby initiating signalling pathways, usually used by growth factors. These findings have significantly enhanced our knowledge of the pathogenesis of arteriosclerosis and provided promising information for therapeutic interventions for vascular diseases.

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