Propranolol, a non-selective β-adrenergic blocking drug, was recently reported to control the growth of hemangiomas, the most common vascular tumor of infancy. However, the mechanisms involved in this effect remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that propranolol dose-dependently inhibited growth factor-induced proliferation of cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) through a G₀/G₁ phase cell cycle arrest. This was correlated to decreased cyclin D1, cyclin D3, and cyclin-dependent kinase CDK6 protein levels, while increases in the CDK inhibitors p15(INK4B), p21(WAF1/Cip1) and p27(Kip1) were observed. Chemotactic motility and differentiation of HUVECs into capillary-like tubular structures in Matrigel were also inhibited by propranolol. Furthermore, inhibition by propranolol of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of VEGF receptor-2 lead to inhibition of downstream signaling such as the activation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 and the secretion of the extracellular matrix degrading enzyme MMP-2. Taken together, these results demonstrate that propranolol interferes with several essential steps of neovascularization and opens up novel therapeutic opportunities for the use of β-blockers in the treatment of angiogenesis-dependent human diseases.
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