Poor viability of transplanted mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in the infracted heart has limited their therapeutic efficacy in cardiac repair after myocardial infarction. We previously demonstrated that hypoxia and serum deprivation (hypoxia/SD) induced mitochondria-dependent apoptosis in MSCs, while lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) could almost completely block this apoptotic process. However, the role of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and its upstream signaling events in hypoxia/SD-induced MSC apoptosis remain largely unknown. Here we found that hypoxia/SD-induced MSC apoptosis was associated with ER stress, as shown by the induction of CHOP expression and procaspase-12 cleavage, while the effects were abrogated by LPA treatment, suggesting ER stress is also a target of LPA. Furthermore, hypoxia/SD induced p38 activation, inhibition of which resulted in decreases of apoptotic cells, procaspase-12 cleavage and mitochondrial cytochrome c release that function in parallel in MSC apoptosis. Unexpectedly, p38 inhibition enhanced hypoxia/SD-induced CHOP expression. Interestingly, p38 activation, a common process mediating various biological effects of LPA, was inhibited by LPA in this study, and the regulation of p38 pathway by LPA was dependent on LPA(1/3)/Gi/ERK1/2 pathway-mediated MKP-1 induction but independent of PI3K/Akt pathway. Collectively, our findings indicate that ER stress is a target of LPA to antagonize hypoxia/SD-induced MSC apoptosis, and the modulation of mitochondrial and ER stress-associated apoptotic pathways by LPA is at least partly dependent on LPA(1/3)/Gi/ERK/MKP-1 pathway-mediated p38 inhibition. This study may provide new anti-apoptotic targets for elevating the viability of MSCs for therapeutic potential of cardiac repair.
© 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.