The inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERKs) is implicated in the negative regulation of vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) mitogenesis by cAMP-elevating agents and transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1). These factors inhibited rabbit aortic VSMC mitogenesis induced by platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-BB by preventing the entry of cells into S-phase. cAMP-elevating agents partly inhibited the late phase (1-4 h) of activation of ERKs 1 and 2 induced by PDGF-BB without inhibiting the early phase of activity (5-15 min) and had no effect on activity induced by basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). In contrast, cAMP elevation caused a marked inhibition of early ERK activation induced by angiotensin II and thrombin. TGF-β1 had no inhibitory effect on ERK activation induced by PDGF-BB or bFGF. The inhibition of PDGF-BB-stimulated DNA synthesis by either forskolin/3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX) or TGF-β1 was not decreased when the agents were added up to 8 h after growth factor. In contrast, the selective ERK kinase inhibitor PD98059 was a weak inhibitor of DNA synthesis; a combination of PD98059 and forskolin/IBMX had an additive inhibitory effect on DNA synthesis. Forskolin/IBMX inhibited the growth factor-induced expression of c-myc mRNA and cyclin D1 protein, and enhanced the protein expression of p27kip1. TGF-β1 had no effect on the expression of c-myc or p27kip1 and weakly attenuated the expression of cyclin D1. These findings support the conclusion that the suppression of VSMC mitogenesis by cAMP and TGF-β1 is independent of ERK inhibition. Anti-mitogenic effects of cAMP might be primarily mediated by events in late G1.

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