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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 Sep;91(3):1421-30.

Invited review: cGMP-dependent protein kinase signaling mechanisms in smooth muscle: from the regulation of tone to gene expression.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Division of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-0019, USA.


cGMP is a second messenger that produces its effects by interacting with intracellular receptor proteins. In smooth muscle cells, one of the major receptors for cGMP is the serine/threonine protein kinase, cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG). PKG has been shown to catalyze the phosphorylation of a number of physiologically relevant proteins whose function it is to regulate the contractile activity of the smooth muscle cell. These include proteins that regulate free intracellular calcium levels, the cytoskeleton, and the phosphorylation state of the regulatory light chain of smooth muscle myosin. Other studies have shown that vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) that are cultured in vitro may cease to express PKG and will, coincidentally, acquire a noncontractile, synthetic phenotype. The restoration of PKG expression to the synthetic phenotype VSMC results in the cells acquiring a more contractile phenotype. These more recent studies suggest that PKG controls VSMC gene expression that, in turn, regulates phenotypic modulation of the cells. Therefore, the regulation of PKG gene expression appears to be linked to phenotypic modulation of VSMC. Because several vascular disorders are related to the accumulation of synthetic, fibroproliferative VSMC in the vessel wall, it is likely that changes in the activity of the nitric oxide/cGMP/PKG pathway is involved the development of these diseases.

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