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Suppression of Programmed Cell Death by Intracellular cAMP Is not Mediated by Expression of Genes Encoding an Inhibitor of Apoptosis

S. Taurin1, G. G. Ryazhsky2, N. V. Maximova2*, A. G. Chuchalin1, P. Hamet1, A. V. Pshezhetsky1, and S. N. Orlov1,2*

1University of Montreal Research Center, Quebec, Canada

2Laboratory of Physical Chemistry of Biomembranes, School of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, 119899 Russia; fax: (095) 939-1116; E-mail: sergei.n.orlov@umontreal.ca

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received November 22, 2000; Revision received May 17, 2001
The elevation of intracellular cAMP content is accompanied by expression of genes whose promoter contains a Ca2+-cAMP responsive element. In vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), activation of cAMP signaling blocks apoptosis triggered by serum deprivation. In the present study we investigated the role of gene expression in the inhibition of apoptosis by cAMP. In VSMC transfected with E1A adenovirus, incubation in the absence of serum for 6 h led to 20-fold elevation of chromatin fragmentation and 10-fold activation of caspase-3 activity, these being employed as markers of apoptosis. Forskolin-induced activation of cAMP signaling was accompanied by 50% elevation of RNA synthesis and completely abolished the development of apoptosis during the initial 6 h incubation in growth factor-free medium. In 12 h apoptosis in forskolin-treated VSMC was slowly developed and after 24 h the content of chromatin fragments was 2-fold less than in control cells. Addition of actinomycin D and cycloheximide completely blocked RNA synthesis and decreased protein synthesis by 80%, respectively. Neither compound affected baseline apoptosis or its inhibition by forskolin. More than 70 newly phosphorylated proteins were observed by 2D-electrophoresis of VSMC after incubation with forskolin for 3 h; in 24 h the number of phosphoproteins triggered by forskolin was decreased by 2-3-fold. These results show that suppression of VSMC apoptosis under activation of cAMP signaling is mediated via posttranslational modification of pre-existing intermediates of the apoptotic machinery rather than by de novo synthesis of inhibitors of programmed cell death.
KEY WORDS: apoptosis, cAMP, RNA synthesis, protein synthesis