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Biochemistry. 2005 Nov 15;44(45):15064-73.

Differential regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFR) revealed by RNA interference: interactions of VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 in endothelial cell signaling.

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Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays a central role in vascular homeostasis. VEGF receptors (VEGFRs) include several subtypes that may have a differential role in endothelial signal transduction, but interactions among these receptors are incompletely understood. In these studies, we designed small interfering RNA (siRNA) duplexes that targeted specific VEGFR subtypes in bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC). siRNA-mediated downregulation of VEGFR-2 by its cognate siRNA resulted in a significant attenuation of VEGF-mediated signaling. Compared to control siRNA-treated cells, VEGFR-2 siRNA markedly inhibited VEGF-mediated activation of PI3K/Akt/GSK3-beta as well as MAP kinase and PKC pathways. VEGFR-2 siRNA also blocked VEGF-stimulated phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) at Ser(1179) and Ser(116), respectively. VEGFR-2-specific siRNA had no effect on the abundance of VEGFR-1 protein. By contrast, VEGFR-1-specific siRNA markedly not only downregulated the abundance of VEGFR-1 but also significantly reduced VEGFR-2 protein and mRNA abundance. VEGFR-1 siRNA had no effect on the stability of VEGFR-2 protein or mRNA. However, VEGFR-1 siRNA significantly inhibited VEGFR-2 promoter activity, as determined in luciferase assays using VEGFR-2 promoter fusion constructs in transfected BAEC. Deletion of either the 5' E box or the 3' E box and the GATA element in the VEGFR-2 promoter completely abolished the inhibition of VEGFR-2 promoter activity elicited by VEGFR-1 siRNA. Taken together, our data suggest that VEGFR-1 receptor is a critical determinant of VEGFR-2 abundance, while VEGFR-2 is the key receptor directly responsible for endothelial cell signaling stimulated by VEGF.

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