Apoptosis of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) is controlled by a balance between the effect of growth factors and cytokines, and is involved in plaque instability in advanced atherosclerotic lesions. Recently, we reported high levels of atheroma-associated cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), in carotid plaques of symptomatic patients. These cytokines induce apoptosis of vascular SMCs, and thus could be responsible for plaque rupture, a clinically devastating event. In this study, we examined the effect of TNF-α on the cell cycle inhibitor p27kip and apoptosis of SMCs in human carotid plaques, and the underlying mechanism. Both Forkhead box subclass o1 (FoxO1) and p27kip were more strongly expressed in symptomatic than asymptomatic atherosclerotic plaques. TNF-α significantly induced the expression of FoxO1 in asymptomatic plaque SMCs in a dose- and time-dependent manner via JNK signaling pathway. TNF-α also induced phosphorylation of FoxO1, resulting in its cytoplasmic translocation/nuclear exclusion of transcription factors. The effect of TNF-α was blocked by the PI3K inhibitor, LY294002. Meanwhile, TNF-α not only induced the p27kip expression and cell cycle arrest in the G0-G1 phase, but also enhanced caspase-3 activity and induced apoptosis in SMCs of asymptomatic plaques. However, the potential effect of TNF-α on the cell cycle inhibitor p27kip and apoptosis of SMCs was inhibited by siRNA against FoxO1 in asymptomatic patients. These data suggest the involvement of FoxO1 transcription factor in TNF-α-induced expression of a cell cycle regulatory protein and apoptosis of SMCs, thus regulating the stability of atherosclerotic plaques with carotid stenosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Molecular Biology
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine