An imbalance between proliferation and apoptosis is an important causal factor for disorders involving abnormal cell accumulation. Endothelin (ET)-1, a 21-amino-acid peptide with mitogenic and vasoconstricting activities, not only acts as a mitogen, but also attenuates paclitaxel-induced apoptosis in smooth muscle cells. In both human pericardial and prostatic smooth muscle cells, addition of ET-1 reduced paclitaxel-induced DNA fragmentation and phosphatidylserine on the cell surface, two characteristics of apoptosis. By comparison, angiotensin II, another vasoactive peptide, did not have a significant effect on apoptosis. The effect of ET-1 was dose-dependent with an EC50 of 1 nM. These results suggest that ET is a potential survival factor for smooth muscle cells, and that altered activity of the ET system in disease states has potential to contribute to aberrant cell growth.

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