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Glycobiology. 2009 May;19(5):537-46. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwp022. Epub 2009 Feb 24.

The effects of 4-methylumbelliferone on hyaluronan synthesis, MMP2 activity, proliferation, and motility of human aortic smooth muscle cells.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche Sperimentali e Cliniche, Università degli Studi dell'Insubria, via J.H. Dunant 5, 21100 Varese, Italy.


Extracellular matrix remodeling after proatherosclerotic injury involves an increase in hyaluronan (HA) that is coupled with vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) migration, proliferation, and with neointima formation. As such events are dependent on HA, in this study we assessed the effects on SMC behavior of 4-methylumbelliferone (4-MU). As previously described in other cell types, 4-MU reduced HA in cultures of primary human aortic SMCs (AoSMCs) as well as the cellular content of the HA precursor UDP-glucuronic acid. We found that SMCs increased UDP-glucuronyl transferase 1 enzymes, which can reduce the cellular content of UDP-glucuronic acid confirming that the availability of the UDP-sugar substrates can regulate HA synthesis. Interestingly, we reported that 4-MU reduced the transcripts coding for the three HA synthases as well as UDP glucose pyrophosphorylase and dehydrogenase. As HA synthase transcript reduction is common to other cell types, the 4-MU effect on gene expression may be considered a mechanism for HA synthesis inhibition. Moreover, we showed that 4-MU strongly inhibits AoSMCs migration, which was restored by the addition of exogenous HA indicating that the rescuing depends on the interaction of HA with its receptor CD44. Besides the decrease in HA synthesis and cell migration, 4-MU reduced AoSMCs proliferation, indicating that 4-MU may exert a vasoprotective effect.

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