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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Feb 16;96(4):1633-8.

Epiregulin is a potent vascular smooth muscle cell-derived mitogen induced by angiotensin II, endothelin-1, and thrombin.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Drug Discovery, Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Route 206 and Province Line Road, Princeton, NJ 08543, USA.


Vasoactive GTP-binding protein-coupled receptor agonists such as angiotensin II (AII), endothelin-1 (ET-1), and alpha-thrombin (alpha-Thr) have been reported to indirectly stimulate vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation by regulating the expression of one or more autocrine growth factors. Using ion-exchange, gel-filtration, and reverse-phase chromatographic purification methods, we isolated a major mitogenic protein present in AII-stimulated rat aortic smooth muscle (RASM) cell conditioned medium. Twenty N-terminal amino acids of the purified peptide were identified, and they had 75% amino acid sequence identity with mouse epiregulin, an epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related growth factor. We cloned the cDNA for rat epiregulin to determine its pattern of expression in G-protein-coupled receptor agonist-stimulated cells and confirm its activity as a mitogen. After treatment of RASM cells with AII, ET-1, or alpha-Thr for 1 h, induction of two epiregulin transcripts was observed, including a 4.8-kb transcript and a novel transcript of approximately 1.2 kb. Recombinant rat epiregulin was strongly mitogenic for RASM cells, stimulating DNA synthesis to levels similar to those induced by serum or platelet-derived growth factor and approximately 3-fold above that observed with saturating concentrations of EGF. In addition, epiregulin caused rapid EGF receptor activation in RASM cells. However, relative levels of EGF receptor tyrosine phosphorylation stimulated by epiregulin were less than those induced by EGF or betacellulin. Taken together, these results indicate that epiregulin is a potent VSMC-secreted mitogen, induced in common by AII, ET-1, and alpha-Thr, that may contribute to VSMC proliferation and vascular remodeling stimulated by vasoactive agonists.

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