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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2009 May;296(5):C1162-70. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00533.2008. Epub 2009 Feb 25.

Chronic hypoxia attenuates VEGF signaling and angiogenic responses by downregulation of KDR in human endothelial cells.

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  • 1Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-0645, USA.


Coronary artery disease results in progressive vascular stenosis associated with chronic myocardial ischemia. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) stimulates endothelial cell angiogenic responses to revascularize ischemic tissues; however, the effect of chronic hypoxia on the responsiveness of endothelial cells to VEGF remains unclear. We, therefore, investigated whether hypoxia alters VEGF-stimulated signaling and angiogenic responses in primary human coronary artery endothelial (HCAE) cells. Exposure of HCAE cells to hypoxia (1% O(2)) for 24 h decreased VEGF-stimulated endothelial cell migration ( approximately 82%), proliferation ( approximately 30%), and tube formation. Hypoxia attenuated VEGF-stimulated activation of endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthase (eNOS) ( approximately 72%) and reduced NO production in VEGF-stimulated cells from 237 +/- 38.8 to 61.3 +/- 28.4 nmol/l. Moreover, hypoxia also decreased the ratio of phosphorylated eNOS to total eNOS in VEGF-stimulated cells by approximately 50%. This effect was not observed in thrombin-stimulated cells, suggesting that hypoxia specifically inhibited VEGF signaling upstream of eNOS phosphorylation. VEGF-induced activation of Akt, ERK1/2, p38, p70S6 kinases, and S6 ribosomal protein was also attenuated in hypoxic cells. Moreover, VEGF-stimulated phosphorylation of VEGF receptor-2 (KDR) at Y996 and Y1175 was decreased by hypoxia. This decrease correlated with a 70 +/- 12% decrease in KDR protein expression. Analysis of mRNA from these cells showed that hypoxia reduced steady-state levels of KDR mRNA by 52 +/- 16% and decreased mRNA stability relative to normoxic cells. Our findings demonstrate that chronic hypoxia attenuates VEGF-stimulated signaling in HCAE cells by specific downregulation of KDR expression. These data provide a novel explanation for the impaired angiogenic responses to VEGF in endothelial cells exposed to chronic hypoxia.

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