Autocrine fibroblast growth factor-2 signaling contributes to altered endothelial phenotype in pulmonary hypertension

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Aug;45(2):311-22. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2010-0317OC. Epub 2010 Oct 29.


Pulmonary vascular remodeling is key to the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH). We recently reported that fibroblast growth factor (FGF)2 is markedly overproduced by pulmonary endothelial cells (P-ECs) in IPAH and contributes significantly to smooth muscle hyperplasia and disease progression. Excessive FGF2 expression in malignancy exerts pathologic effects on tumor cells by paracrine and autocrine mechanisms.We hypothesized that FGF2 overproduction contributes in an autocrine manner to the abnormal phenotype of P-ECs, characteristic of IPAH. In distal pulmonary arteries (PAs) of patients with IPAH, we found increased numbers of proliferating ECs and decreased numbers of apoptotic ECs, accompanied with stronger immunoreactivity for the antiapoptotic molecules, B-cell lymphoma (BCL)2, and BCL extra long (BCL-xL) compared with PAs from control patients. These in situ observations were replicated in vitro, with cultured P-ECs from patients IPAH exhibiting increased proliferation and diminished sensitivity to apoptotic induction with marked increases in the antiapoptotic factors BCL2 and BCL-xL and levels of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated (ERK)1/2 compared with control P-ECs. IPAH P-ECs also exhibited increased FGF2 expression and an accentuated proliferative and survival response to conditioned P-EC media or exogenous FGF2 treatment. Decreasing FGF2 signaling by RNA interference normalized sensitivity to apoptosis and proliferative potential in the IPAH P-ECs. Our findings suggest that excessive autocrine release of endothelial-derived FGF2 in IPAH contributes to the acquisition and maintenance of an abnormal EC phenotype, enhancing proliferation through constitutive activation of ERK1/2 and decreasing apoptosis by increasing BCL2 and BCL-xL.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Apoptosis*
  • Autocrine Communication*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Familial Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Female
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / genetics
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / genetics
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / metabolism*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Young Adult
  • bcl-X Protein / antagonists & inhibitors
  • bcl-X Protein / genetics
  • bcl-X Protein / metabolism


  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • bcl-X Protein
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2