Background: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play an important role in smooth muscle cell (SMC) migration and proliferation during vascular remodelling. To investigate the expression of MMP-12 by SMCs, we examined the protein secretion and mRNA expression of MMP-12 by cultured medial SMCs and intimal SMCs derived from human aortic atherosclerotic lesions. To further elucidate the molecular mechanism for MMP-12 expression in SMCs, we determined the sequence requirements for MMP-12 gene transcriptional activity.
Results: Cultured medial SMCs and intimal SMCs showed substantial MMP-12 expression at both the protein and mRNA levels. A series of 5′-deletion and site-directed mutants of the human MMP-12 promoter demonstrated that an AP-1 site spanning −81 to −75 bp was critical for the MMP-12 promoter activity in SMCs. An electrophoretic mobility shift assay confirmed the AP-1 binding activity in SMCs and showed that the protein bound to the AP-1 site consisted predominantly of c-Jun, JunD and Fra-1. Two structurally different inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, wortmannin and LY294002, inhibited MMP-12 transcriptional activity and AP-1 binding.
Conclusion: These results indicated the expression of MMP-12 in vascular SMCs and showed that the MMP-12 gene expression was dependent on the AP-1 binding activity. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signalling may be involved in MMP-12 transcriptional activation through AP-1 binding activity.