Cell Biochem Funct. 2012 Mar;30(2):108-13. doi: 10.1002/cbf.1823. Epub 2011 Oct 26.

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The effects of myocyte enhancer factor 2A gene on the proliferation, migration and phenotype of vascular smooth muscle cells.

Zhao W1, Zhao SP, Peng DQ.

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1Department of Cardiology, Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.


The genetic basis for the phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is unclear in atherosclerosis. Recent studies showed that the 21-base pair deletion mutation (Δ21) in myocyte enhancer factor 2A (MEF2A) gene could be an inherited marker for coronary artery disease. MEF2A mutation may affect the phenotypic switching of VSMCs. Human aortic VSMCs were used. Four groups of VSMCs transfected with green fluorescent protein plasmid (control group), MEF2A wild-type (WT) plasmid (WT group), MEF2A Δ21 plasmid (Δ21 group) or MEF2A siRNA (siRNA group) were studied. The proliferation of VSMCs was determined by methylthiazolyldiphenyl-tetrazolium bromide, and the migration of VSMCs was measured by Millicell chamber. The protein expressions of MEF2A, smooth muscle α-actin, SM22α, osteopontin and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway were detected by Western blotting. MEF2A protein expression was knockdown by siRNA transfection. MEF2A protein was overexpressed in WT and Δ21 groups. Δ21 and siRNA groups obviously showed more proliferation (methylthiazolyldiphenyl-tetrazolium bromide, 0.63 vs 0.66 vs 0.31, P < 0.01) and migration (52.6 vs 58.0 vs 21.2, P < 0.01) of VSMCs as compared with the WT group. In addition, the transfection of Δ21 and siRNA could induce the down-regulation of smooth muscle α-actin and SM22α (P < 0.01) and the up-regulation of osteopontin (P < 0.01) in VSMCs. The phosphorylated p38 signaling pathway expression was significantly enhanced in the Δ21 and siRNA groups as compared with that of the WT group (P < 0.01). These results suggest that MEF2A dominant negative mutation and RNA silence could induce the phenotypic switching of VSMCs, leading to its increased proliferation and migration, and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway may participate in it.