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Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2007 Jul-Sep;20(3):539-55.

The prominent role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase in insulin-mediated enhancement of VCAM-1 expression in endothelial cells.

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  • 1Center of Excellence on Aging, G.d'Annunzio University, Chieti, Italy.


Insulin levels are a marker for cardiovascular events, but the link between hyperinsulinemia and atherosclerosis is poorly understood. We previously showed that insulin increases monocyte-endothelial interactions and the endothelial expression of the pro-atherogenic vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1). The aim of this study is to examine molecular mechanisms involved in the effect of insulin on VCAM-1 expression. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were incubated with insulin (0-24 h)+/- inhibitors of signaling pathways potentially involved. At pathophysiological concentrations (10(-9)-10(-7) M), insulin selectively induced VCAM-1 expression. The p38 mitogen activated protein(MAP) kinase inhibitors SB203580 and SB202190, and partially the c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor SP600127, decreased insulin effect on VCAM-1. Gene silencing by small interfering RNA significantly reduced the expression of p38MAP kinase, and this was accompanied by suppression of insulin-stimulated VCAM-1 expression. Treatment with insulin also led to the activation of NF-KB and induction of IKB-alpha phosphorylation, thus accounting for NF-KB translocation into the nucleus. Co-treatment of HUVEC with insulin and SB202190 strongly reverted the stimulatory effect of insulin on NF-KB activation, thus establishing a link between NF-KB activation and p38MAPkinase-mediated induction of VCAM-1 by insulin. In conclusion, pathophysiological insulin concentrations increase VCAM-1 expression and activate NF-KB. This mostly occurs through stimulation of p38MAP kinase.

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