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To study the effect of growth factors on iatrogenic apoptosis, we examined the influence of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) on staurosporine-induced apoptosis in primary cultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). Apoptosis was evaluated by a cell viability test, the TUNEL-POD assay and the activation of the pro-apoptotic caspase-3. Staurosporine (10–100 nM) caused the activation of caspase-3. This effect was manifest after 2 hr of incubation and reached its maximum after 5 hr. Severe loss of viability followed within 18 hr. VEGF or EGF (10–100 ng/mL) added together with staurosporine decreased the activation of caspase-3. The loss of viability was 24 hr delayed. The action of growth factors was observed at 1% serum concentration but also at concentration optimal for HUVEC survival (10%, v/v). Furthermore, the inhibition of PI-3 kinase (PI-3K) by wortmannin or LY294002 as well as the inhibition of MEK by PD098059 or U0126 prevented the protective effect of VEGF and EGF. Western blotting analysis showed that after 3 hr of incubation with staurosporine the level of the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 decreased and this effect was reverted by VEGF. It is concluded that VEGF and EGF antagonize the pro-apoptotic action of staurosporine by the combined signalling of PI-3K and ERKs pathways.