Aims The expression of PUMA (p53-up-regulated modulator of apoptosis), an apoptosis-regulating gene, increases during endoplasmic reticulum stress. The mechanisms by which cyclic stretch influences the regulation of PUMA in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) during apoptosis remain unclear. We hypothesized that cyclic stretch enhances PUMA expression in VSMCs undergoing apoptosis. Methods and Results Human VSMCs grown on a Flexcell I flexible membrane base were stretched via vacuum to 20 of elongation at a frequency of 1 Hz. An in vivo model of volume overload with aorta-caval shunt and pressure overload with aortic banding in adult rats was used to study PUMA expression. Cyclic stretch markedly enhanced PUMA protein and gene expression after stretch. Addition of c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor SP600125 and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) antibody 30 min before stretch inhibited PUMA expression. Gel shift assay demonstrated that stretch increased the DNA binding activity of interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1). SP600125, JNK small interfering RNA, and IFN-γ antibody attenuated the DNA binding activity induced by stretch. PUMA-Mut plasmid, SP600125, and IRF-1 antibody attenuated the promoter activity. Stretch increased secretion of IFN-γ from VSMCs, and conditioned media from stretched VSMCs increased PUMA protein expression. The in vivo model of aorta-caval shunt and aortic banding also showed increased PUMA protein expression in the aorta. Conclusion Cyclic mechanical stretch increases PUMA expression in cultured human VSMCs. The PUMA expression induced by stretch is mediated by IFN-γ, JNK, and IRF-1 pathways. These findings suggest that PUMA is an important mediator in VSMC apoptosis induced by stretch.
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