FK506 can activate transforming growth factor-β signalling in vascular smooth muscle cells and promote proliferation

Arturo Giordano, Simona Romano, Maria Mallardo, Anna D'Angelillo, Gaetano Calì, Nicola Corcione, Paolo Ferraro, Maria Fiammetta Romano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: FK506-binding protein (FKBP) 12 is an inhibitor of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β type I receptors. Several lines of evidence support the view that TGF-β stimulates vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation and matrix accumulation. We investigated the effect of FK506, also known as tacrolimus, on cellular proliferation and on matrix protein production in human VSMCs. Methods and results: We measured cell proliferation with flow cytometry using BrdU incorporation and fluorimetrically by measuring DNA concentration with Hoechst 33258. Western blot assay of whole-cell lysates was used to measure the levels of signalling proteins involved in proliferative pathways, in particular β-catenin, pErk, pAkt, pmTOR, and cyclin D1. Collagen synthesis was also investigated by Western blotting. The TGF-β signal was studied by both Western blotting and confocal microscopy. We used the SiRNA technique for FKBP12 gene silencing. Our results show that FK506 stimulates VSMC proliferation and collagen type I production. FK506 enhanced β-catenin levels and activated the extracellular signal-regulated kinase, Akt, and mammalian target of rapamycin kinase, which are important effectors of proliferation. Accordingly, cyclin D1 expression was increased. We also demonstrate that FK506 activates the TGF-β signal in VSMCs and that, through this mechanism, it stimulates cell proliferation. Conclusion: FK506 can act as a growth factor for VSMCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-526
Number of pages8
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


  • FK506
  • Proliferation
  • TGF-β
  • VSMC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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