During the early phase of atherosclerosis, monocytes attach to and migrate through the vessel wall where they activate and communicate with smooth muscle cells (SMC) affecting plaque progression by largely unknown mechanisms. Activation of STAT3 transcription factor is suggested to be critically involved in dedifferentiation, migration, and proliferation of SMC in the neointima formation after vascular injury. Monocytes-SMC cross-talk induces an inflammatory phenotype of the resident SMC, but the involvement of STAT3 in phenotype switching is not known. Resistin is a cytokine found in human atheroma associated to monocytes/macrophages with role in inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease. The aim of this study was to follow the effect of activated monocytes-SMC cross-talk on STAT3 activation and subsequent resistin and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Our results showed that the interaction of activated monocytes with SMC determines: (i) phosphorylation of STAT3 and reduction of SOCS3 expression in both cell types; (ii) intracellular ROS production dependent on NADPH oxidase (by increased Nox1 expression) and STAT3 activation in SMC; (iii) up-regulation of resistin expression in monocytes dependent on STAT3 activation. Furthermore, exposure of SMC to resistin induces ROS by increasing NADPH oxidase activity and the p22phox and Nox1 expression. In conclusion, the cross-talk between SMC and monocytes activates STAT3 transcription factor and lead to resistin up-regulation in monocytes and ROS production in SMC. Moreover, resistin increases the ROS levels in SMC. These data indicate that monocyte-SMC communication may represent an important factor for progression of the atherosclerotic lesion. J. Cell. Biochem. 114: 2273–2283, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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