Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) respond to arterial wall injury by intimal proliferation and play a key role in atherogenesis by proliferating and migrating excessively in response to repeated injury, such as hypertension and atherosclerosis. In contrast, fully differentiated, quiescent VSMCs allow arterial vasodilatation and vasoconstriction. Exaggerated and uncontrolled VSMCs proliferation appears therefore to be a common feature of both atherosclerosis and hypertension. Phosphorylation/dephosphorylation reactions of enzymes belonging to the family of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and protein kinase B (Akt) play an important role in the transduction of mitogenic signal. We have previously shown that among extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERKs), the 42 and 44 kDa isoforms (ERK1/2) as well as Akt and cytosolic phospholipase 2 (cPLA2) participate in the cellular mitogenic machinery triggered by several VSMCs activators, including insulin (INS). The ability of INS to significantly increase VSMCs proliferation has been demonstrated in several systems, but understanding of the intracellular signal transduction pathways involved is incomplete. Signal transduction pathways involved in regulation of the VSMCs proliferation by INS remains poorly understood. Thus, this review examines recent findings in signaling mechanisms employed by INS in modulating the regulation of proliferation of VSMCs with particular emphasis on PI3K/Akt, cPLA2 and ERK1/2 signaling pathways that have been identified as important mediators of VSMCs hypertrophy and vascular diseases. These findings are critical for understanding the role of INS in vascular biology and hyperinsulinemia.
Keywords: VSMCs, ERK1/2, PI3K/Akt, cPLA2, proliferation, insulin
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