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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2006 Jun;290(6):H2528-34. Epub 2006 Jan 6.

Hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha promote growth factor-induced proliferation of human vascular smooth muscle cells.

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Molecular Cardiology Research Institute, Department of Medicine, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Box 8486, 750 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Hypoxia is thought to be a stimulus for the excessive proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) that contributes to pulmonary hypertension, but the mechanisms involved are unknown. Here we tested whether hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1alpha), a master regulator of the transcriptional response to hypoxia, is involved in the enhanced mitogen-induced proliferative responses of hypoxic VSMC. Exposure to moderate hypoxia (5% O(2)) enhanced the proliferative responses of human pulmonary artery SMC (HPASMC) to mitogens including platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2), and epidermal growth factor (EGF), compared with those in normoxia (20% O(2)). Moderate hypoxia elicited increased cellular HIF-1alpha levels, shown by Western blot analysis, and also enhanced PDGF-, FGF-2-, and EGF-induced expression of HIF-1alpha. Knockdown of HIF-1alpha or HIF-1beta levels in HPASMC with specific small interfering RNAs inhibited FGF-2-stimulated proliferation of HPASMC incubated in either 5% or 20% O(2) but failed to inhibit the comitogenic effect of hypoxia. Knockdown of HIF-1alpha similarly inhibited PDGF-stimulated proliferation, whereas HIF-2alpha knockdown had no effect on HPASMC proliferation. Knockdown of HIF-1alpha expression also inhibited growth factor-induced expression of cyclin A. We conclude that HIF-1alpha promotes proliferative responses of human VSMC to FGF-2, PDGF, and EGF by mechanisms that may involve HIF-1-dependent expression of cyclin A, but HIF is apparently not crucial to the enhancement of FGF-2-, PDGF-, and EGF-induced proliferation of VSMC that occurs during hypoxia.

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