Evidence for an age-related dysfunction in the antiproliferative response to transforming growth factor-β in vascular smooth muscle cells

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Molecular Biology of the Cell








Previous studies have indicated that aged animals show an increased intimal hyperplasia after arterial injury. The present studies examined the hypothesis that the increased serum-free proliferation of aged smooth muscle cells (SMC), in vitro, was due to a loss of an antiproliferative signal, such as transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β1). Northern blot analysis of the mRNA derived from old (> 19 mo) or young (3-4 mo) rat aortic SMC indicated that both groups had an equivalent level of the 2.5 kB TGF-β1message. Metabolic labeling with 35S-methionine and immunoprecipitation for TGF-β1 confirmed the de novo synthesis of TGF-β1 in rat SMC. Old and young SMC supernatants showed equal levels of active or latent (acid-activated) TGF-β activity. Despite the similarities in the production of TGF-β1, old SMC were refractory to inhibition by TGF-β1, whereas young SMC were markedly inhibited (80%) by low levels of TGF-β1 (IC50 < 5 pg/ml). Binding studies at 4°C indicated that old SMC exhibited reduced binding capacity for 125I-TGF-β1.Crosslinking studies confirmed that old SMC showed reduced binding of 125I-TGF-β1 to membrane sites corresponding to the high molecular weight type III receptor, as well as the 85-kDa type II and 65-kDa type I receptor. However, at 37°C, old SMC degraded 125I-TGF-β1 more rapidly than young SMC. Combined, this data suggests that SMC derived from older animals are capable of normal production of TGF-β1 but fail to respond to the autocrine growth inhibitory effects of this agent, thereby leading to enhanced proliferation.