Previous studies identified a positive feedback loop in rat vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in which early growth response factor-1 (Egr-1) binds to the osteopontin (OPN) promoter and upregulates OPN expression, and OPN upregulates Egr-1 expression via the extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) signaling pathway. The current study examined whether transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) activity contributes to Egr-1 binding to the OPN promoter, and whether other signaling pathways act downstream of OPN to regulate Egr-1 expression. ChIP assays using an anti-Egr-1 antibody showed that amplification of the OPN promoter sequence decreased in TGF-beta DNA enzyme-transfected VSMCs relative to control VSMCs. Treatment of VSMCs with PD98059 (ERK inhibitor), SP600125 (JNK inhibitor), or SB203580 (p38 MAPK inhibitor) significantly inhibited OPN-induced Egr-1 expression, and PD98059 treatment was associated with the most significant decrease in Egr-1 expression. OPN-stimulated VSMC cell migration was inhibited by SP600125 or SB203580, but not by PD98059. Furthermore, MTT assays showed that OPN-mediated cell proliferation was inhibited by PD98059, but not by SP600125 or SB203580. Taken together, the results of the current study show that Egr-1 binding to the OPN promoter is positively regulated by TGF-beta, and that the p38 MAPK, JNK, and ERK pathways are involved in OPN-mediated Egr-1 upregulation.
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