Abstract 117: RhoC Regulates VEGF-induced Signaling in Endothelial Cells

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Vascular permeability factor/vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) is a central regulator of angiogenesis and potently promotes vascular permeability. VEGF plays a key role in the pathologies of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Therefore, understanding the molecular regulation of VEGF signaling is an important pursuit. Rho GTPase proteins play various roles in vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. While the functions of RhoA and RhoB in these processes have been well defined, little is known about the role of RhoC in VEGF-mediated signaling in endothelial cells and vascular development. Here, we describe how RhoC modulates VEGF signaling to regulate endothelial cell proliferation, migration and permeability. We found VEGF stimulation activates RhoC in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), which was completely blocked after VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) knockdown indicating that VEGF activates RhoC through VEGFR-2 signaling. Interestingly, RhoC knockdown delayed the degradation of VEGFR-2 compared to control siRNA treated HUVECs, thus implicating RhoC in VEGFR-2 trafficking. In light of our results suggesting VEGF activates RhoC through VEGFR-2, we sought to determine whether RhoC regulates vascular permeability through the VEGFR-2/phospholipase Cγ (PLCγ) /Ca2+/eNOS cascade. We found RhoC knockdown in VEGF-stimulated HUVECs significantly increased PLC-γ1 phosphorylation at tyrosine 783, promoted basal and VEGF-stimulated eNOS phophorylation at serine 1177, and increased calcium flux compared with control siRNA transfected HUVECs. Taken together, our findings suggest RhoC negatively regulates VEGF-induced vascular permeability. We confirmed this finding through a VEGF-inducible zebrafish model of vascular permeability by observing significantly greater vascular permeability in RhoC morpholino (MO)-injected zebrafish than control MO-injected zebrafish. Furthermore, we showed that RhoC promotes endothelial cell proliferation and negatively regulates endothelial cell migration. Our data suggests a scenario in which RhoC promotes proliferation by upregulating -catenin in a Wnt signaling-independent manner, which in turn, promotes Cyclin D1 expression and subsequently drives cell cycle progression.

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