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J Biol Chem. 1998 Apr 3;273(14):8413-8.

Proinflammatory cytokines regulate expression of the lymphatic endothelial mitogen vascular endothelial growth factor-C.

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Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, the Haartman Institute, and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Haartmaninkatu 2, FIN-00290 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a prime regulator of normal and pathological angiogenesis. Three related endothelial cell growth factors, VEGF-B, VEGF-C, and VEGF-D were recently cloned. We have here studied the regulation of VEGF-C, a lymphatic endothelial growth factor, by angiogenic proinflammatory cytokines. Interleukin (IL)-1beta induced a concentration- and a time-dependent increase in VEGF-C, but not in VEGF-B, mRNA steady-state levels in human lung fibroblasts. The increase in VEGF-C mRNA levels was mainly due to increased transcription rather than elevated mRNA stability as detected by the nuclear run-on method and by following mRNA decay in the presence of an inhibitor of transcription, respectively. In contrast, angiopoietin-1 mRNA, encoding the ligand for the endothelial-specific Tek/Tie-2 receptor, was down-regulated by IL-1beta. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha and IL-1alpha also elevated VEGF-C mRNA steady-state levels, whereas the IL-1 receptor antagonist and dexamethasone inhibited the effect of IL-1beta. Experiments with cycloheximide indicated that the effect of IL-1beta was independent of protein synthesis. Hypoxia, which is an important inducer of VEGF expression, had no effect on VEGF-B or VEGF-C mRNA levels. IL-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha also stimulated the production of VEGF-C protein by the fibroblasts. Cytokines and growth factors have previously been shown to down-regulate VEGF receptors in vascular endothelial cells. We found that the mRNA for the VEGF- and VEGF-C-binding VEGFR-2 (KDR/Flk-1) was stimulated by IL-1beta in human umbilical vein endothelial cells, whereas the mRNA levels of VEGFR-1 (Flt-1) and VEGFR-3 (Flt-4) were not altered. Our data suggest that in addition to VEGF, VEGF-C may also serve as an endothelial stimulus at sites of cytokine activation. In particular, these results raise the possibility that certain proinflammatory cytokines regulate the lymphatic vessels indirectly via VEGF-C.

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