We previously showed that progesterone (P4) inhibited the proliferation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) through a p53-dependent pathway. Now we investigated further the molecular mechanism underlying the hormone activity. In cultured HUVECs, P4 increased the protein levels of phosphorylated Src (p-Src), Raf-1, and ERK. The levels of p-Src and p-Src-progesterone receptor complex in HUVECs were increased by P4 treatment. These effects were blocked by pretreatment with a progesterone receptor antagonist, RU486. The P4-induced increase in p53 transactivity was abolished by pretreatment with Src kinase inhibitors. Moreover, administration with cSrc antisense oligonucleotide prevented the P4-induced increases of the levels of p53 mRNA and protein. These data suggest that P4-induced up-regulation of p53 might be mediated through activation of cSrc. Pretreatment with Src kinase inhibitors also prevented P4-induced membrane translocation of Kras and increases of the protein levels of phosphorylated Raf and phosphorylated ERK. Transfection with dominant-negative ERK2 prevented the P4-induced increases of protein level and promoter activity of p53 and a decrease of thymidine incorporation. P4 also increased nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) nuclear translocation and NF-κB binding onto the p53 promoter. These effects were abolished by pretreatment with ERK inhibitors. The P4-induced upregulation of the p53 promoter activity was prevented by preadministration with dominant-negative ERK2 or NF-κB inhibitors. Taken together, our data suggest that the cSrc/Kras/Raf-1/ERK2/NF- κB signaling pathway contributes to the P4-induced up-regulation of p53 in HUVECs. These findings high-light progesterone receptor activation of extranuclear signaling pathways in regulating p53 and cell cycle progression in HUVECs.
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