MFG-E8 activates proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells via integrin signaling.
An accumulation of milk fat globule EGF-8 protein (MFG-E8) occurs within the context of arterial wall inflammatory remodeling during aging, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or atherosclerosis. MFG-E8 induces VSMC invasion, but whether it affects VSMC proliferation, a salient feature of arterial inflammation, is unknown. Here, we show that in the rat arterial wall in vivo, PCNA and Ki67, markers of cell cycle activation, increase with age between 8 and 30 months. In fresh and early passage VSMC isolated from old aortae, an increase in CDK4 and PCNA, an increase in the acceleration of cell cycle S and G2 phases, decrease in the G1/G0 phase, and an increase in PDGF and its receptors confer elevated proliferative capacity, compared to young VSMC. Increased coexpression and physical interaction of MFG-E8 and integrin ?v?5 occur with aging in both the rat aortic wall in vivo and in VSMC in vitro. In young VSMC in vitro, MFG-E8 added exogenously, or overexpressed endogenously, triggers phosphorylation of ERK1/2, augmented levels of PCNA and CDK4, increased BrdU incorporation, and promotes proliferation, via ?v?5 integrins. MFG-E8 silencing, or its receptor inhibition, or the blockade of ERK1/2 phosphorylation in these cells reduces PCNA and CDK4 levels and decelerates the cell cycle S phase, conferring a reduction in proliferative capacity. Collectively, these results indicate that MFG-E8 in a dose-dependent manner coordinates the expression of cell cycle molecules and facilitates VSMC proliferation via integrin/ERK1/2 signaling. Thus, an increase in MFG-E8 signaling is a mechanism of the age-associated increase in aortic VSMC proliferation.