Protein Kinase A-regulated Assembly of a MEF2·HDAC4 Repressor Complex Controls c-Jun Expression in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells*


Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) maintain the ability to modulate their phenotype in response to changing environmental stimuli. This phenotype modulation plays a critical role in the development of most vascular disease states. In these studies, stimulation of cultured vascular smooth muscle cells with platelet-derived growth factor resulted in marked induction of c-jun expression, which was attenuated by protein kinase Cδ and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase inhibition. Given that these signaling pathways have been shown to relieve the repressive effects of class II histone deacetylases (HDACs) on myocyte enhancer factor (MEF) 2 proteins, we ectopically expressed HDAC4 and observed repression of c-jun expression. Congruently, suppression of HDAC4 by RNA interference resulted in enhanced c-jun expression. Consistent with these findings, mutation of the MEF2 cis-element in the c-jun promoter resulted in promoter activation during quiescent conditions, suggesting that the MEF2 cis-element functions as a repressor in this context. Furthermore, we demonstrate that protein kinase A attenuates c-Jun expression by promoting the formation of a MEF2·HDAC4 repressor complex by inhibiting salt-inducible kinase 1. Finally, we document a physical interaction between c-Jun and myocardin, and we document that forced expression of c-Jun represses the ability of myocardin to activate smooth muscle gene expression. Thus, MEF2 and HDAC4 act to repress c-Jun expression in quiescent VSMCs, protein kinase A enhances this repression, and platelet-derived growth factor derepresses c-Jun expression through calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinases and novel protein kinase Cs. Regulation of this molecular “switch” on the c-jun promoter may thus prove critical for toggling between the activated and quiescent VSMC phenotypes

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