Stimulation of activin A expression in rat aortic smooth muscle cells by thrombin and angiotensin II correlates with neointimal formation in vivo

John E. Pawlowski, David S. Taylor, Maria Valentine, Mark E. Hail, Patricia Ferrer, Mark C. Kowala, Christopher J. Molloy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Vasoactive GTP-binding protein-coupled receptor agonists (e.g., angiotensin II [AII] and α-thrombin) stimulate the production of mitogenic factors from vascular smooth muscle cells. In experiments to identify mitogens secreted from AII- or α-thrombin-stimulated rat aortic smooth muscle (RASM) cells, neutralizing antibodies directed against several growth factors (e.g., PDGF and basic fibroblast growth factor [basic FGF]) failed to inhibit the mitogenic activity of conditioned media samples derived from the cells. In this report, we found that polyclonal neutralizing antibodies directed against purified human placental basic FGF reduced the mitogenic activity of AII-stimulated RASM cell-conditioned media and in immunoblot experiments identified a 26-kD protein (14 kD under reducing conditions) that was distinct from basic FGF. After purification from RASM cell-conditioned medium, amino acid sequence analysis identified the protein as activin A, a member of the TGF-β superfamily. Increased activin A expression was observed after treatment of the RASM cells with AII, α-thrombin, and the protein kinase C agonist PMA. In contrast, PDGF-BB or serum caused only a minor induction of this protein. Although activin A alone only weakly stimulated RASM cell DNA synthesis, it demonstrated a potent comitogenic effect in combination with either EGF or heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor in the RASM cells, increasing DNA synthesis by up to fourfold. Furthermore, in a rat carotid injury model, activin A mRNA was upregulated within 6 h after injury followed by increases in immunoreactive protein detected in the expanding neointima 7 and 14 d later. Taken together, these results indicate that activin A is a vascular smooth muscle cell-derived factor induced by vasoactive agonists that may, either alone or in combination with other vascular derived growth factors, have a role in neointimal formation after arterial injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-648
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


  • Atherosclerosis
  • EGF
  • Remodeling
  • Restenosis
  • TGF-β


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