Background: Low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1) protects against atherosclerosis by regulating the activation of platelet-derived growth factor receptor beta (PDGFRbeta) in vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Activated PDGFRbeta undergoes tyrosine phosphorylation and subsequently interacts with various signaling molecules, including phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), which binds to the phosphorylated tyrosine 739/750 residues in mice, and thus regulates actin polymerization and cell movement.
Methods and principal findings: In this study, we found disorganized actin in the form of membrane ruffling and enhanced cell migration in LRP1-deficient (LRP1-/-) SMCs. Marfan syndrome-like phenotypes such as tortuous aortas, disrupted elastic layers and abnormally activated transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) signaling are present in smooth muscle-specific LRP1 knockout (smLRP1-/-) mice. To investigate the role of LRP1-regulated PI3K activation by PDGFRbeta in atherogenesis, we generated a strain of smLRP1-/- mice in which tyrosine 739/750 of the PDGFRbeta had been mutated to phenylalanines (PDGFRbeta F2/F2). Spontaneous atherosclerosis was significantly reduced in the absence of hypercholesterolemia in these mice compared to smLRP1-/- animals that express wild type PDGFR. Normal actin organization was restored and spontaneous SMC migration as well as PDGF-BB-induced chemotaxis was dramatically reduced, despite continued overactivation of TGFbeta signaling, as indicated by high levels of nuclear phospho-Smad2.
Conclusions and significance: Our data suggest that LRP1 regulates actin organization and cell migration by controlling PDGFRbeta-dependent activation of PI3K. TGFbeta activation alone is not sufficient for the expression of the Marfan-like vascular phenotype. Thus, regulation of PI3 Kinase by PDGFRbeta is essential for maintaining vascular integrity, and for the prevention of atherosclerosis as well as Marfan syndrome.