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J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 8;275(36):27874-82.

Induction of vascular endothelial growth factor in human astrocytes by lead. Involvement of a protein kinase C/activator protein-1 complex-dependent and hypoxia-inducible factor 1-independent signaling pathway.

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Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Oncology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and The Kennedy Krieger Research Institute, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The mechanism(s) underlying lead neurotoxicity are not fully elucidated. cDNA expression microarray analysis identified lead-sensitive genes in immortalized human fetal astrocytes (SV-FHA). Of the represented genes expressed, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was one of the most sensitive. Lead induced VEGF mRNA 3-fold and VEGF protein approximately 2-fold with maximum mRNA induction following incubation with 10 micrometer lead acetate for 24 h. Phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), a potent protein kinase C (PKC) activator, increased VEGF mRNA 2-fold and PKC inhibition by GF-109203 completely blocked VEGF induction by lead. Expression of dominant-negative PKC-epsilon, but not PKC-alpha, completely inhibited VEGF mRNA induction by lead. Lead activated the transcription factor AP-1 and increased AP-1-dependent luciferase expression >2-fold. Transfection of cells with a c-jun dominant-negative effectively inhibited both AP-1 activation and VEGF mRNA induction by lead. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) activity in SV-FHAs was moderately increased by lead (86%) and PMA (96%). Pretreatment with GF-109203 completely inhibited these effects of lead and PMA. However, lead did not alter HIF-1-dependent luciferase expression and a HIF-1alpha dominant-negative had no effects on the induction of VEGF mRNA by lead. These findings indicate that lead induces VEGF expression in SV-FHAs via a PKC/AP-1-dependent and HIF-1-independent signaling pathway.

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