Involvement of COX-2 in VEGF-induced angiogenesis via P38 and JNK pathways in vascular endothelial cells

Cardiovasc Res. 2006 Feb 1;69(2):512-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cardiores.2005.09.019. Epub 2005 Dec 5.


Objective: Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is induced by hypoxic stimuli and is also involved in the process of angiogenesis. We previously demonstrated that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is one of the principal factors produced by hypoxic myocytes and is responsible for the induction of COX-2 expression in endothelial cells. Yet the signaling pathways by which VEGF modulates COX-2 gene expression are still less well defined. We therefore examined the regulation of VEGF-induced COX-2 expression by the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family in endothelial cells.

Methods and results: Human umbilical vascular endothelial cells (HUVECs) were incubated with U0126 (ERK1/2 inhibitor, 10 microM), SB203580 (p38 inhibitor, 20 microM), and SP600125 (JNK inhibitor, 20 microM), as well as the COX-2 selective inhibitor, NS398, for 1 h before treating with VEGF (20 ng/ml). COX-2 expression induced by VEGF at both mRNA and protein levels was significantly inhibited by selective p38 and JNK inhibitors but not by the ERK1/2 inhibitor. The phosphorylation of p38 and JNK kinases was observed as early as 5 min in HUVECs after VEGF stimulation. Furthermore, the biological significance of the COX-2 gene in endothelial cells was examined by over-expressing or knocking down COX-2 gene expression. (3)H-Thymidine incorporation and Matrigel techniques were used to determine cell proliferation and vascular structure formation. VEGF-induced cell proliferation was significantly reduced when HUVECs were either pre-treated with NS398 (21.52+/-3.6%) or transfected with COX-2 siRNA (34.12+/-5.81%). In contrast, in HUVECs with over-expression of COX-2, VEGF-induced cell proliferation was increased 42.56+/-7.69%. Moreover, the formation of vascular structure assayed by Matrigel demonstrated that VEGF-induced vascular structure formation was accelerated in COX-2 over-expressing cells but attenuated in COX-2 siRNA-transfected cells.

Conclusion: COX-2 plays an important role in VEGF-induced angiogenesis via p38 and JNK kinase activation pathways. These findings suggest that the cardioprotective role of COX-2 may be, at least in part, through its angiogenic activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthracenes / pharmacology
  • Butadienes / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / genetics
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism*
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / pharmacology
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4 / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Nitrobenzenes / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Anthracenes
  • Butadienes
  • Imidazoles
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nitriles
  • Nitrobenzenes
  • Pyridines
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Sulfonamides
  • U 0126
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • N-(2-cyclohexyloxy-4-nitrophenyl)methanesulfonamide
  • pyrazolanthrone
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4
  • SB 203580