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    A key feature of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is the hyperplastic proliferation exhibited by the vascular smooth muscle cells from patients (HPASMC). The growth inducers FOXM1 and PLK1 are highly upregulated in these cells. The mechanism by which these two proteins direct aberrant growth in these cells is not clear. Herein, we identify cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1), also termed cell division cycle protein 2 (CDC2), as having a primary role in promoting progress of the cell cycle leading to proliferation in HPASMC. HPASMC obtained from PAH patients and pulmonary arteries from Sugen/hypoxia rats were investigated for their expression of CDC2. Protein levels of CDC2 were much higher in PAH than in cells from normal donors. Knocking down FOXM1 or PLK1 protein expression with siRNA or pharmacological inhibitors lowered the cellular expression of CDC2 considerably. However, knockdown of CDC2 with siRNA or inhibiting its activity with RO-3306 did not reduce the protein expression of FOXM1 or PLK1. Expression of CDC2 and FOXM1 reached its maximum at G1/S, while PLK1 reached its maximum at G2/M phase of the cell cycle. The expression of other CDKs such as CDK2, CDK4, CDK6, CDK7, and CDK9 did not change in PAH HPASMC. Moreover, inhibition via Wee1 inhibitor adavosertib or siRNAs targeting Wee1, Myt1, CDC25A, CDC25B, or CDC25C led to dramatic decreases in CDC2 protein expression. Lastly, we found CDC2 expression at the RNA and protein level to be upregulated in pulmonary arteries during disease progression Sugen/hypoxia rats. In sum, our present results illustrate that the increased expression of FOXM1 and PLK1 in PAH leads directly to increased expression of CDC2 resulting in potentiated growth hyperactivity of PASMC from patients with pulmonary hypertension. Our results further suggest that the regulation of CDC2, or associated regulatory proteins, will prove beneficial in the treatment of this disease.


    Ruma Pal-Ghosh, Danfeng Xue, Rod Warburton, Nicholas Hill, Peter Polgar, Jamie L Wilson. CDC2 Is an Important Driver of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation via FOXM1 and PLK1 in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Jun 28;22(13)

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    PMID: 34203295

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