The abnormal growth of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is considered a critical pathogenic process in inflammatory vascular diseases. We have previously demonstrated that protein phosphatase 2 A (PP2A)-mediated NF-κB dephosphorylation contributes to the anti-inflammatory properties of andrographolide, a novel NF-κB inhibitor. In this study, we investigated whether andrographolide causes apoptosis, and characterized its apoptotic mechanisms in rat VSMCs. Andrographolide activated the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38MAPK), leading to p53 phosphorylation. Phosphorylated p53 subsequently transactivated the expression of Bax, a pro-apoptotic protein. Transfection with pp2a small interfering RNA (siRNA) suppressed andrographolide-induced p38MAPK activation, p53 phosphorylation, and caspase 3 activation. Andrographolide also activated the Src homology 1 domain-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase (SHP-1), and induced PP2A dephosphorylation, both of which were inhibited by the SHP-1 inhibitor sodium stibogluconate (SSG) or shp-1 siRNA. SSG or shp-1 siRNA prevented andrographolide-induced apoptosis. These results suggest that andrographolide activates the PP2A-p38MAPK-p53-Bax cascade, causing mitochondrial dysfunction and VSMC death through an SHP-1-dependent mechanism.
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