Heat shock protein 70 (hsp70) functioning as molecular chaperon in physiological conditions is induced under stress environment, which affords a defensive mechanism for cells to escape cellular damage. Hence, it is a critical issue to develop a nontoxic hsp70-inducing compound against cellular death. The present study was conducted to evaluate whether 3-(5′-hydroxymethyl- 2′-furyl)-1-benzyl-indazol (YC-1) can effectively induce hsp70 expression and protect vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) against oxidized low-density lipoprotein-induced cytotoxicity. We showed that YC-1 enhanced hsp70 expression in VSMCs through a concentration- and time-dependent manner with maximum expression at 18 and 24 h without involving the cyclic guanosine monophosphate and reactive oxygen species signal in the pathway. Furthermore, we did not observe significant cytotoxicity after YC-1 treatment through 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide, lactic dehydrogenase, and fluorescence activating cell sorting scan assays. We demonstrated that the nuclear level of heat shock transcription factor 1 increased at 2 h after YC-1 treatment, and hsp70 expression was directed by the up-regulation of hsp70 mRNA, which peaked at 6 h and was followed by a decline. Hence, translocation of heat shock transcription factor 1 and increased level of hsp70 mRNA would account for Hsp70 expression. Finally, we found that YC-1 protects VSMCs from oxidized low-density lipoprotein-inducing apoptosis. According to our observations, YC-1 would be an effectively pharmacological hsp70 inducer that can be used as a cytoprotective agent in vascular diseases.
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