Author(s): Garonna E, Botham KM, Birdsey GM, Randi AM, GonzalezPerez RR,
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The adipocyte-derived hormone leptin influences the behaviour of a wide range of cell types and is now recognised as a pro-angiogenic and pro-inflammatory factor. In the vasculature, these effects are mediated in part through its direct leptin receptor (ObRb)-driven actions on endothelial cells (ECs) but the mechanisms responsible for these activities have not been established. In this study we sought to more fully define the molecular links between inflammatory and angiogenic responses of leptin-stimulated human ECs. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Immunoblotting studies showed that leptin increased cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression (but not COX-1) in cultured human umbilical vein ECs (HUVEC) through pathways that depend upon activation of both p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38(MAPK)) and Akt, and stimulated rapid phosphorylation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) on Tyr(1175). Phosphorylation of VEGFR2, p38(MAPK) and Akt, and COX-2 induction in cells challenged with leptin were blocked by a specific leptin peptide receptor antagonist. Pharmacological inhibitors of COX-2, the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway and p38(MAPK) abrogated leptin-induced EC proliferation (assessed by quantifying 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine incorporation, calcein fluorescence and propidium iodide staining), slowed the increased migration rate of leptin-stimulated cells (in vitro wound healing assay) and inhibited leptin-induced capillary-like tube formation by HUVEC on Matrigel. Inhibition of VEGFR2 tyrosine kinase activity reduced leptin-stimulated p38(MAPK) and Akt activation, COX-2 induction, and pro-angiogenic EC responses, and blockade of VEGFR2 or COX-2 activities abolished leptin-driven neo-angiogenesis in a chick chorioallantoic membrane vascularisation assay in vivo. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We conclude that a functional endothelial p38(MAPK)/Akt/COX-2 signalling axis is required for leptin's pro-angiogenic actions and that this is regulated upstream by ObRb-dependent activation of VEGFR2. These studies identify a new function for VEGFR2 as a mediator of leptin-stimulated COX-2 expression and angiogenesis and have implications for understanding leptin's regulation of the vasculature in both non-obese and obese individuals.
This article was published in PLoS One
and referenced in Journal of Cytology & Histology