- Original investigation
- Open Access
Dopamine D4 receptors inhibit proliferation and migration of vascular smooth muscle cells induced by insulin via down-regulation of insulin receptor expression
- Changqing Yu1, 2,
- Zhen Wang†1, 2,
- Yu Han1, 2,
- Yukai Liu1, 2,
- Wei Eric Wang1, 2,
- Caiyu Chen1, 2,
- Hongyong Wang†1, 2Email author,
- Pedro A Jose3, 4 and
- Chunyu Zeng†1, 2Email author
© Yu et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014
- Received: 24 January 2014
- Accepted: 26 March 2014
- Published: 2 June 2014
Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) proliferation and migration, which are central in the development of vascular diseases, are regulated by numerous hormones and humoral factors. Activation of the insulin receptor stimulates VSMCs proliferation while dopamine receptors, via D1 and D3 receptors, inhibit the stimulatory effects of norepinephrine on VSMCs proliferation. We hypothesize that activation of the D4 dopamine receptor may also inhibit the proliferation and migration of VSMCs, therefore, inhibit atherosclerosis. Our current study found that insulin increased the proliferation and migration of A10 cells, an effect that was reduced in the presence of a D4 receptor agonist, PD168077. The negative effect of the D4 receptor on insulin’s action may be via decreasing insulin receptor expression, because activation of the D4 receptor inhibited insulin receptor protein and mRNA expressions, indicating that the regulation occured at the transcriptional or post-transcriptional levels. To determine whether or not the inhibition of D4 receptor on insulin-mediated proliferation and migration of VSMCs has physiological significance, hyper-insulinemic Sprague–Dawley rats with balloon-injured carotid artery were treated with a D4 agonist, PD168077, (6 mg/kg/d) for 14 days. We found that PD168077 significantly inhibited neointimal formation by inhibition of VSMC proliferation. This study suggests that activation of the D4 receptor suppresses the proliferation and migration of VSMCs, therefore, inhibit atherosclerosis. The D4 receptor may be a potential therapeutic target to reduce the effects of insulin on artery remodeling.
- Dopamine receptor
- Insulin receptor
- Vascular smooth muscle cell
The abnormal proliferation and migration of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) play a crucial role in neointimal formation and vascular remodeling during atherosclerosis and restenosis [1–3]. It is currently accepted that proliferation and migration of medial VSMCs are involved in neointimal formation after injury, which could be induced by cytokines and growth factors, including insulin. Insulin initiates many biological effects by activating the insulin signaling pathways, such as mitogen activated protein kinase, triggering hypertrophy, proliferation, and migration of VSMCs [4–6]. Therefore, inhibition of insulin-mediated VSMCs proliferation and migration would be helpful in preventing the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis after angioplasty.
Dopamine receptors exert beneficial effects by regulating epithelial sodium transport and vascular smooth muscle tone in hypertension [7–12]. Dopamine receptors are classified into D1-like and D2-like subtypes based on their structure and pharmacology. D1-like receptors are composed of D1 and D5 receptors while D2-like receptors are composed of D2, D3 and D4 receptors [6–11]. We have previously shown that activation of D1-like or D3 receptor inhibits the insulin-mediated VSMCs proliferation [13, 14]. Activation of D1-like and D3 receptors has an additive inhibitory effect on norepinephrine-mediated proliferation of VSMCs . We hypothesized that D4 receptors may also have inhibitory effect on insulin-mediated VSMCs proliferation and migration, which may inhibit the formation of atherosclerosis. To test this hypothesis, we used cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells line (A10) to examine the potential effect of D4 receptors on insulin-mediated proliferation and migration, and investigated the role of D4 receptors on neointimal hyperplasia in Sprague–Dawley (SD) rats with hyperinsulinemia.
PD168077 (D4 receptor agonist), L745870 (D4 receptor antagonist), streptozotocin (STZ) were from Sigma Co. (Sigma, St. Louis, MO). Insulin was purchased from Roche Group (Basel, Switzerland); Rabbit polyclonal antibody against insulin receptor, cleaved caspase 3 and Histone H3 were from Cell Signaling (Beverly, MA). Antibody for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) was from Santa Cruz. SDS-polyacrylamide gels were from Pierce (Rockford, IL). Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and protein gel apparatus were from Bio-Rad (Hercules, CA). Minimal essential medium (MEM), Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium (DMEM), and fetal bovine serum (FBS) were from Gibco/Invitrogen (Carlsbad, CA); fibroblast growth factor (FGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF), phosphate buffered saline (PBS), penicillin/streptomycin, and non-essential amino acids were from Sigma Co.
A10 cell , a smooth muscle cell line from rat thoracic aorta, was purchased from ATCC (A10; ATCC, Hercules, CA), and cultured in DMEM supplemented with 20% FBS and 1% penicillin/streptomycin/bFGF/EGF at 37°C in a humidified, 5% CO2 atmosphere. After reaching sub-confluence, the A10 cells were serum-starved for 24 hrs in serum-free DMEM to maintain quiescence before further treatment.
A10 cell proliferation
Cell proliferation was determined by measuring the uptake of tetrazolium salt, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) and the incorporation of [3H]-thymidine (Atomic Energy Research Establishment of China, Beijing City, China) into DNA of cells respectively. The cells were seeded into 96-well (100 μl of medium per well) culture plates at a density of 1 × 104 cells/well, made quiescent for 24 hrs, and then stimulated with the indicated reagents. Subsequently, 20 μl of MTT (5 mg/ml) were added to each well, and the incubation continued for an additional 4 hrs at 37°C. Thereafter, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO, 150 μl) was added to each well, and absorbance read at 490 nm on a Microplate reader (model 680, Bio-Rad). For [3H]-thymidine incorporation assay, the cells were treated with the same reagents then labeled with [3H]-thymidine (1 μCi/ml) 6 h and assessed for [3H] incorporation into newly synthesized DNA as previously described . Cell number was also used to estimate cell proliferation by plating the A10 cells in six-well plastic culture dishes at a density of 1 × 104/well in DMEM with 10% FBS. The medium was then removed and washed three times with PBS. The cells were incubated in serum-free medium, which contained the indicated reagents for the indicated times. After incubation, the number of cells was counted by a hemocytometer (trypan blue uptake, which indicates cell death, was observed in <10% of the cells). Experiments were performed independently at least three times [13–15].
A10 cell migration
Cells migration was examined using transwell and scratch-wound migration assays. The transwell migration assay was performed using 24-well tissue culture plates (BD Bioscience, Becton, NJ) with an 8-μm-pore polycarbonate membrane [16, 17]. The number of migratory A10 cells was counted in 10 randomly chosen fields of duplicate chambers at a magnification of 200× for each sample. For the scratch-wound migration assay, the A10 cells were scratched with a small tip along the ruler. After washing, the cells were cultured in serum-free DMEM for 48 hrs. The migration area (%) was analyzed in 10 randomly chosen fields under an inverted microscope (IX-70; Olympus, Tokyo, Japan), using NIH Image J software; area at 0 hr and area at 48 hrs × 100% was calculated.
Immunoflurescence image of rat thoracic aorta
Expression of D4 receptors in thoracic aorta from SD rats was examined by laser scanning confocal microscope. Briefly, the aorta was cleared of blood with ice-cold oxygenated saline and kept in Histochoice (Amresco, Solon, OH) for one to two days at 4°C, then sectioned (4 μm), embedded in paraffin, and mounted on slides. The sections were double-immunostained with mouse anti-D4 receptor antibody (1:100) and rabbit polyclonal anti-α-SM-actin antibody (1:100). The colocalization of D4 receptors and α-SM-actin was performed as described previously .
A10 cells were treated with vehicle (ddH2O), D4 receptor agonist (PD168077) and/or D4 receptor antagonist (L745870) at the indicated concentrations and times. After treatment, the A10 cells were washed once in PBS and lysed in lysis buffer. Immunoblotting was performed as previously reported [13, 14]. Protein concentration was determined using a protein assay kit (Bio-Rad Laboratories, Hercules, CA) with bovine serum albumin as standard. Cell lysates were boiled in sample buffer (35 mmol/L Tris–HCl, pH 6.8, 4% SDS, 9.3% dithiothreitol, 0.01% bromophenol blue, 30% glycerol) for 10 min; 50 μg of cell protein were subject to immunoblotting analysis. PVDF membranes were blocked with 5% nonfat dry milk in PBS-T [0.05% Tween20 in 10 mmol/L phosphate-buffered (isotonic) saline] at 37°C for 2 hrs with constant shaking. The membranes were then probed with rabbit polyclonal antibodies specific for insulin receptor and D4 receptor at 4°C overnight, and then incubated with goat anti-rabbit polyclonal antibodies conjugated to horseradish peroxidase. Proteins were detected using enhanced chemiluminescence reagents (Amersham, Little Chalfont, UK). The amount of protein transferred onto the membranes was normalized by immunoblotting of α-actin (monoclonal α-actin antibody, 1:400, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. Santa Cruz, CA).
Total RNA from A10 cells was isolated using a Trizol procedure (Invitrogen, Carlsbuel, CA). Two μg of total RNA were used to synthesize cDNA, which served as template for the amplification of D4 receptor, insulin receptor, and β-actin (as housekeeping gene). Primer sequences for D4 receptor were 5′-TGC CCT GTC CGC TCA TGC TAC TGC-3′ (forward) and 5′-CAC CGG CAG GAC TCT CAT CGC CTT GC-3′ (reverse). Primer sequences for insulin receptor were 5′-GGA CTGAAG GTA TGA ATG GAG-3′ (forward) and 5′-TAA CAC AAG CCA AGG AAG GG-3′ (reverse), Primer sequences for β-actin was 5′-GTGGGTATGGGTCAGAAGGA-3′(forward) and 5′-AGCGCGTAACCCTCATAGAT-3′ (reverse). The amplification was performed with the following conditions: 95°C for 1 min, followed by 35 cycles of denaturation at 94°C for 30 sec, annealing at 60°C for 30 sec, and extension at 72°C for 45 sec. This was followed by a final extension at 72°C for 10 min. The PCR products were electrophoresed in 2% agarose gels [13, 14].
Rat hyperinsulinemic model
Healthy male SD rats weighing 210-220 g, were obtained from the Experimental Animal Center of Daping Hospital. The rats were housed on a constant 12 hrs light/12 hrs dark cycle in temperature-controlled central facility (18-22°C) and allowed free access to normal chow and tap water. Type 2 diabetes was induced using STZ, as described previously [19, 20]. Briefly, the rats were intragastrically fed high-fat diet (HFD) consisting of 15% lard, 30% sucrose, 10% Tween-80 and 10% propylene glycol in a volume of 20 ml/kg body weight once a day for 4 weeks (normal-pellet diet rats served as the control). Then the rats were injected intraperitoneally with STZ (25 mg/kg in a 0.1 mol/L citrate buffer at a single dose, pH 4.5) to induce type 2 diabetes with hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. After STZ injection, body mass and blood pressure were measured; blood samples were obtained from the tail vein for assay of blood glucose, serum insulin, triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids using commercially available kits. The rats with fasting blood glucose concentrations more than 11.1 mmol/L were considered to qualify for subsequent experiments.
Rat carotid balloon injury
SD rats were anesthetized using a mixture of ketamine (80 mg/kg) and xylazine (12 mg/kg), and then the left common and external carotid arteries were exposed and isolated. A 2 F Fogarty catheter (Edwards Life Sciences, Irvine, CA) was introduced into the common carotid artery through an arteriotomy in the external carotid artery and inflated to 1.0-1.5 atm. A 10-mm injury was induced by withdrawing the catheter 4 times. The external carotid artery was then untied, and blood flow was restored. After the balloon-injury, SD rats were intraperitoneally injected with PD168077 (6 mg/kg per day) or similar volume of distilled water (2 ml/kg) daily for 14 days. Before the SD rats were euthanized, body mass and blood pressure were measured, and bloods for biochemical parameter measurements were obtained. Then, both carotid arteries were dissected and the sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and observed under a light microscope (Olympus, Tokyo, Japan). Media and neointima areas of injured arteries were quantified by planimetry (μm2) and intima-to-media ratios were calculated as reported [21, 22].
Proliferation and apoptosis of rat carotid arteries treated with PD168077 after balloon injury
Cell proliferation and apoptosis are important contributors to neointimal formation after balloon injury. We performed experiments investigating the role of PD168077 in reducing the proliferation and sustaining the apoptosis of rat carotid artery at day14 after balloon injury. PCNA (1:500) and cleaved caspase 3 (1:800) expression were evaluated the proliferation or apoptosis respectively by western-blot as previously.
The data are expressed as mean ± SEM. Comparison within groups was made by repeated measures ANOVA (or paired t-test when only 2 groups were compared), and comparison among groups (or t-test when only 2 groups were compared) was made by factorial ANOVA with Holm-Sidak test. A value of P < 0.05 was considered significant.
D4 receptor in artery
Stimulation of the D4 receptor inhibits insulin-mediated A10 cell proliferation and migration
Activation of D4 receptor decreases insulin receptor expression in A10 cells
Effect of D4 receptor on neointima formation in balloon-injured carotid arteries of SD rats
Metabolic characteristics and biochemical parameter in SD rats induced using high-fat feeding in combination with STZ and PD168077
Mean blood pressure (mmHg)
6 1.20± 8.85
64.05 ± 8.70
Blood glucose (mmol/L)
Serum insulin (pmol/L)
68.23 ± 3.26*
Total cholesterol (mmol/L)
Free fatty acids (mmol/L)
Effect of D4 receptor on proliferation and apoptosis of in balloon-injured carotid arteries of SD rats
Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease due, in part, to the VSM proliferative and pro-atherogenic actions of insulin [3, 5, 24, 25]. Therefore, reducing the stimulatory effect of insulin on VSMC proliferation and migration may provide new insights in the prevention of atherosclerosis.
More and more pieces of evidence indicate an interaction between insulin and dopamine receptors in various tissues and cells. The renal dopaminergic system is impaired in hyperinsulinemic rats and type 2 diabetes patients [26–28]. The dopamine D1-like receptor agonist, fenoldopam, has been shown to improve peripheral insulin sensitivity in STZ-induced type 2 diabetic rats . In pancreatic beta cells, the D2-like receptor (D2R/D3R) agonist quinpirole inhibits glucose-stimulated insulin secretion . Another D2-like receptors agonist, bromocriptine, has been reported to decrease insulin levels of obese women . Our previous studies also indicate a negative interaction between D1-like and insulin receptors because a D1-like receptor agonist, fenoldopam, inhibits the proliferative effect of insulin in A10 cells . Stimulation of the D3 receptor also inhibits insulin receptor mRNA and protein expressions and insulin-mediated VSMC proliferation . However, whether or not the D4 receptor has inhibitory effect on insulin-mediated VSMC proliferation and migration is unknown.
Previous studies have demonstrated that D4 receptors are expressed in the adventitia and adventitia-media border of human pulmonary and coronary arteries [32, 33]. We now show, for the first time, that D4 receptors are expressed in thoracic aorta of SD rats, determined RT-PCR and immunoblotting and in VSM of the aorta, by double-immunofluorescence staining. Moreover, the D4 receptor in VSMCs is functional. Stimulation of the D4 receptor reduced insulin-mediated VSMC proliferation and migration, although D4 receptor, by itself, had no effect.
The importance of the D4 receptor on VSMC remodeling during insulin resistance was investigated using a rat model of insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia (STZ-treated rats on high fat diet). Treatment of these rats with PD168077, a D4 receptor agonist, for two weeks prevented neointimal growth in balloon-injured carotid artery. Neointimal formation after vessel injury is a complex process involving the proliferation and migration of VSMCs . Apoptosis is also important in this process [34, 35]. In this study, PD168077 significantly reduced the balloon injury caused neointimal hyperplasia in rat carotid artery. PCNA expression was also decreased in injured artery with PD168077 treatment. However, the expression of cleaved caspase 3 was not significant change in injured carotid arteries between the two groups which seems proliferation not apoptosis likely to be the major contributor for attenuation of neointimal formation after treatment with PD168077. Based on these findings and previous studies, we speculate that the D4 receptor may be a target to inhibit abnormal VSMC growth induced by insulin, which may lead to a novel strategy in the treatment of atherosclerosis.
In summary, we have demonstrated that activation of the D4 receptor inhibits insulin receptor expression and insulin-mediated proliferation and migration of A10 cells in vitro, and neointimal formation in vivo. This study implicates a critical role of the D4 receptor in the pathogenesis of vascular remodeling and this new insight may result in the development of a novel strategy in the treatment and prevention of vascular injury associated with insulin resistance.
These studies were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation of China (31130029, 81370354), National Basic Research Program of China (973Program, 2012CB517801), and National Institutes of Health, USA (5P01HL0749400).
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