Krüppel-like factor 5 (KLF5), originally isolated as a regulator of phenotypic modulation of vascular smooth muscle cells, induces pathological cell growth and is expressed in the neointima. Although induction of KLF5 up-regulates growth factors like platelet-derived growth factor-A chain, how KLF5 actually contributes to vascular remodeling, notably its direct effects on cell proliferation, had been poorly clarified. To investigate the effects of KLF5 on neointimal formation, we at first performed adenoviral overexpression of KLF5 to rats subjected to carotid balloon injury. Neointimal formation and proliferating cell nuclear antigen-positive rate were significantly increased at 14 days after injury in the KLF5-treated animals. At the cellular level, overexpression of KLF5 also resulted in markedly increased cell proliferation and cell cycle progression. As a molecular mechanism, we showed that KLF5 directly bound to the promoter and up-regulated gene expression of cyclin D1, as well as showing specific transactivation of cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors in cardiovascular cells. Conversely, knockdown of KLF5 by RNA interference specifically down-regulated cyclin D1 and impaired vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation. Furthermore, KLF5 attenuated cleavage of caspase-3 under conditions of apoptotic stimulation. Moreover, KLF5-administered animals exhibited a significant decrease in terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling-positive cells in the medial layer, suggesting inhibition of apoptosis in the early phase after denudation. These findings collectively suggest that KLF5 plays a central role in cardiovascular pathologies through direct and specific stimulation of cell growth as well as inhibition of apoptosis
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