Aging impairs transcriptional regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor in human microvascular endothelial cells: implications for angiogenesis and cell survival.
In some tissues, aging impairs angiogenesis and reduces expression of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF), a fundamental regulator of angiogenesis. We previously examined angiogenesis in aging and young gastric mucosa in vivo and in vitro and showed that an imbalance between expressions of VEGF (pro-angiogenic factor) and endostatin (anti-angiogenic protein) results in an aging-related impairment of angiogenesis in rats. However, the human relevance of these findings, and whether these mechanisms apply to endothelial cells derived from other tissues, is not clear. Since P-STAT3 and P-CREB are transcription factors that, in association with HIF-1α, can activate VEGF gene expression in some cells (e.g., liver cancer cells, vascular smooth muscle cells), we examined the expression of these two proteins in human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HMVECs) derived from aging and neonatal individuals. We examined and quantified in vitro angiogenesis, expression of VEGF, P-STAT3, P-CREB and importin-α in HMVECs isolated from neonates (neonatal) and a 66 year old subject (aging). We also examined the effects of treatment with exogenous VEGF and endostatin on in vitro angiogenesis in these cells. Endothelial cells isolated from aging individuals had impaired angiogenesis (vs. neonatal endothelial cells) and reduced expression of VEGF mRNA and protein. Aged HMVECs also had reduced importin-α expression, and reduced expression and nuclear translocation of P-STAT3 and P-CREB. Reduced VEGF gene expression in aged HMVECs strongly correlated with the decreased levels of P-STAT3, P-CREB and importin-α in these cells. Our study clearly demonstrates that endothelial cells from aging individuals have impaired angiogenesis and reduced expression of VEGF likely due to impaired nuclear transport of P-STAT3 and P-CREB transcription factors in these cells.