The Journal of biological chemistry

Transforming growth factor-beta1 stimulates vascular endothelial growth factor 164 via mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 3-p38alpha and p38delta mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent pathway in murine mesangial cells.

PMID 15143069


Transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) is a potent inducer of extracellular matrix synthesis leading to progressive glomerular fibrosis. The intracellular signaling mechanisms involved in this process remain incompletely understood. The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is a major stress signal transducing pathway that is rapidly activated by TGF-beta1 in mesangial cells. We have previously demonstrated MKK3 as the immediate upstream MAPK kinase required for selective activation of p38 MAPK isoforms, p38alpha and p38delta, and stimulation of pro-alpha1(I) collagen by TGF-beta1 in murine mesangial cells. In this study, we further sought to determine MAPK kinase 3 (MKK3)-dependent TGF-beta1 responses by gene expression profiling analysis utilizing mesangial cells isolated from Mkk3-/- mice compared with Mkk3+/+ controls. Interestingly, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was identified as a TGF-beta1-induced gene affected by deletion of Mkk3. VEGF is a well known endothelial mitogen, whose actions in nonendothelial cell types are still not well understood. We confirmed that TGF-beta1 increased VEGF mRNA and protein synthesis of VEGF164 and VEGF188 isoforms in wild-type mesangial cells. However, in the Mkk3-/- mesangial cells, both TGF-beta1-induced VEGF mRNA and VEGF164 protein expression were inhibited, whereas TGF-beta1-induced VEGF188 protein expression was unaffected. Furthermore, transfection of dominant negative mutants of p38alpha and p38delta resulted in marked inhibition of TGF-beta1-induced VEGF164 expression but not VEGF188, and treatment with recombinant mouse VEGF164 increased collagen and fibronectin mRNA expression in mesangial cells. Taken together, our findings suggest a critical role for the MKK3-p38alpha and p38delta MAPK pathway in mediating VEGF164 isoform-specific stimulation by TGF-beta1 in mesangial cells. Further, VEGF164 stimulates collagen and fibronectin expression in mesangial cells and thus in turn enhances TGF-beta1-induced extracellular matrix and may play an important role in progressive glomerular fibrosis.