PHB2 Maintains the Contractile Phenotype of VSMCs by Counteracting PKM2 Splicing

Circ Res. 2022 Oct 28;131(10):807-824. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.122.321005. Epub 2022 Oct 6.


Background: Phenotypic transition of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) accounts for the pathogenesis of a variety of vascular diseases during the early stage. Recent studies indicate the metabolic reprogramming may be involved in VSMC phenotypic transition. However, the definite molecules that link energy metabolism to distinct VSMC phenotype remain elusive.

Methods: A carotid artery injury model was used to study postinjury neointima formation as well as VSMC phenotypic transition in vivo. RNA-seq analysis, cell migration assay, collagen gel contraction assay, wire myography assay, immunoblotting, protein interactome analysis, co-immunoprecipitation, and mammalian 2-hybrid assay were performed to clarify the phenotype and elucidate the molecular mechanisms.

Results: We collected cell energy-regulating genes by using Gene Ontology annotation and applied RNA-Seq analysis of transforming growth factor-β or platelet-derived growth factor BB stimulated VSMCs. Six candidate genes were overlapped from energy metabolism-related genes and genes reciprocally upregulated by transforming growth factor-β and downregulated by platelet-derived growth factor BB. Among them, prohibitin 2 has been reported to regulate mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Indeed, prohibitin 2-deficient VSMCs lost the contractile phenotype as evidenced by reduced contractile proteins. Consistently, Phb2SMCKO mice were more susceptible to postinjury VSMC proliferation and neointima formation compared with Phb2flox/flox mice. Further protein interactome analysis, co-immunoprecipitation, and mammalian 2-hybrid assay revealed that prohibitin 2, through its C-terminus, directly interacts with hnRNPA1, a key modulator of pyruvate kinase M1/2 (PKM) mRNA splicing that promotes PKM2 expression and glycolysis. Prohibitin 2 deficiency facilitated PKM1/2 mRNA splicing and reversion from PKM1 to PKM2, and enhanced glycolysis in VSMCs. Blocking prohibitin 2-hnRNPA1 interaction resulted in increased PKM2 expression, enhanced glycolysis, repressed contractile marker genes expression in VSMCs, as well as aggravated postinjury neointima formation in vivo.

Conclusions: Prohibitin 2 maintains VSMC contractile phenotype by interacting with hnRNPA1 to counteract hnRNPA1-mediated PKM alternative splicing and glucose metabolic reprogramming.

Keywords: PKM; glycolysis; hnRNPA1; neointima; prohibitin 2; restenosis; vascular smooth muscle cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Becaplermin / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular* / metabolism
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism
  • Neointima* / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Prohibitins / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factors / metabolism


  • Becaplermin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factors
  • Prohibitins