NOX4-derived reactive oxygen species limit fibrosis and inhibit proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells in diabetic atherosclerosis

Elyse Di Marco, Stephen P. Gray, Kit Kennedy, Cedric Szyndralewiez, Alicia N. Lyle, Bernard Lassegue, Kathy K. Griendling, Mark E. Cooper, Harald H. H. W. Schmidt, Karin A. M. Jandeleit-Dahm*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation and fibrosis contribute to the development of advanced atherosclerotic lesions. Oxidative stress caused by increased production or unphysiological location of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a known major pathomechanism. However, in atherosclerosis, in particular under hyperglycaemic/diabetic conditions, the hydrogen peroxide-producing NADPH oxidase type 4 (NOX4) is protective. Here we aim to elucidate the mechanisms underlying this paradoxical atheroprotection of vascular smooth muscle NOX4 under conditions of normo- and hyperglycaemia both in vivo and ex vivo. Following 20-weeks of streptozotocin-induced diabetes, Apoe(-/-) mice showed a reduction in SM-alpha-actin and calponin gene expression with concomitant increases in platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), osteopontin (OPN) and the extracellular matrix (ECM) protein fibronectin when compared to non-diabetic controls. Genetic deletion of Nox4 (Nox4(-/-)Apoe(-/-)) exacerbated diabetes-induced expression of PDGF, OPN, collagen I, and proliferation marker Ki67. Aortic SMCs isolated from NOX4-deficient mice exhibited a dedifferentiated phenotype including loss of contractile gene expression, increased proliferation and ECM production as well as elevated levels of NOX1-associated ROS. Mechanistic studies revealed that elevated PDGF signalling in NOX4-deficient SMCs mediated the loss of calponin and increase in fibronectin, while the upregulation of NOX1 was associated with the increased expression of OPN and markers of proliferation. These findings demonstrate that NOX4 actively regulates SMC pathophysiological responses in diabetic Apoe(-/-) mice and in primary mouse SMCs through the activities of PDGF and NOX1.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-567
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • Vascular smooth muscle cell
  • NOX4
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis


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