Hypoxia downregulates PPARγ via an ERK1/2–NF-κB–Nox4-dependent mechanism in human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells

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The ligand-activated transcription factor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) regulates metabolism, cell proliferation, and inflammation. Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is associated with reduced PPARγ expression, and hypoxia exposure regimens that cause PH reduce PPARγ expression. This study examines mechanisms of hypoxia-induced PPARγ downregulation in vitro and in vivo. Hypoxia reduced PPARγ mRNA and protein levels, PPARγ activity, and the expression of PPARγ-regulated genes in human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (HPASMCs) exposed to 1% oxygen for 72 h. Similarly, exposure of mice to hypoxia (10% O2) for 3 weeks reduced PPARγ mRNA and protein in mouse lung. Inhibiting ERK1/2 with PD98059 or treatment with siRNA directed against either NF-κB p65 or Nox4 attenuated hypoxic reductions in PPARγ expression and activity. Furthermore, degradation of H2O2 using PEG-catalase prevented hypoxia-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation and Nox4 expression, suggesting sustained ERK1/2-mediated signaling and Nox4 expression in this response. Mammalian two-hybrid assays demonstrated that PPARγ and p65 bind directly to each other in a mutually repressive fashion. We conclude from these results that hypoxic regimens that promote PH pathogenesis and HPASMC proliferation reduce PPARγ expression and activity through ERK1/2-, p65-, and Nox4-dependent pathways. These findings provide novel insights into mechanisms by which pathophysiological stimuli such as hypoxia cause loss of PPARγ activity and pulmonary vascular cell proliferation, pulmonary vascular remodeling, and PH. These results also indicate that restoration of PPARγ activity with pharmacological ligands may provide a novel therapeutic approach in selected forms of PH.

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