Dysregulated cell growth can be caused by increased activity of protein synthesis eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4E. Dysregulated cell growth is also characteristic of atherosclerosis. It is postulated that exposure of vascular cells, such as endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and monocytes/macrophages, to oxidants, such as oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL), leads to the elaboration of growth factors and cytokines, which in turn results in smooth muscle cell hyperproliferation. To investigate whether activation of eIF4E might play a role in this hyperproliferative response, vascular cells were treated with oxLDL, oxidized lipid components of oxLDL and several model oxidants, including H2O2 and dimethyl naphthoquinone. Exposure to each of these compounds led to a dose- and time-dependent increase in eIF4E phosphorylation in all three types of vascular cells, correlated with a modest increase in overall translation rate. No changes in eIF4EBP, eIF2 or eIF4B modification state were observed. Increased eIF4E phosphorylation was paralleled by increased presence of eIF4E in high-molecular-mass protein complexes characteristic of its most active form. Anti-oxidants at concentrations typically employed to block oxidant-induced cell signalling likewise promoted eIF4E phosphorylation. The results of this study indicate that increased eIF4E activity may contribute to the pathophysiological events in early atherogenesis by increasing the expression of translationally inefficient mRNAs encoding growth-promoting proteins.

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