We have investigated the requirement for mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase in the stimulation of DNA synthesis by platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) in rat aortic smooth muscle cells using a phosphorothioate-modified oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) to deplete MAP kinase. Treatment for 72 h with MAP kinase antisense ODN directed against both the p42 and p44 isoforms of MAP kinase abolished the expression of MAP kinase and reduced agonist-stimulated MAP kinase activity by approx. 95%. The scrambled control ODN was without effect, but the sense control ODN slightly enhanced the expression of both isoforms. Abolition of MAP kinase activity by antisense ODN treatment prevented angiotensin II- and PDGF-stimulated activation of p90 ribosomal S6 kinase activity, but did not affect activation of MAP kinase kinase. In addition, antisense ODN pretreatment reduced PDGF-stimulated [3H]thymidine incorporation to < 5% of control, and decreased basal incorporation by approx. 90%. In contrast, basal [3H]thymidine incorporation was enhanced approx. 60% by control sense ODN treatment. These results indicate an obligatory role for MAP kinase in the activation of a number of early events in mitogenesis, including DNA synthesis, in vascular smooth muscle cells.

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