Cigarette Smoke Modulates Vascular Smooth Muscle Phenotype: Implications for Carotid and Cerebrovascular Disease

Robert M. Starke, Muhammad S. Ali, Pascal M. Jabbour, Stavropoula I. Tjoumakaris, Fernando Gonzalez, David M. Hasan, Robert H. Rosenwasser, Gary K. Owens, Walter J. Koch, Aaron S. Dumont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background:The role of smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotypic modulation in the cerebral circulation and pathogenesis of stroke has not been determined. Cigarette smoke is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis, but potential mechanisms are unclear, and its role in SMC phenotypic modulation has not been established.Methods and Results:In cultured cerebral vascular SMCs, exposure to cigarette smoke extract (CSE) resulted in decreased promoter activity and mRNA expression of key SMC contractile genes (SM-α-actin, SM-22α, SM-MHC) and the transcription factor myocardin in a dose-dependent manner. CSE also induced pro-inflammatory/matrix remodeling genes (MCP-1, MMPs, TNF-α, IL-1β, NF-κB). CSE increased expression of KLF4, a known regulator of SMC differentiation, and siKLF4 inhibited CSE induced suppression of SMC contractile genes and myocardin and activation of inflammatory genes. These mechanisms were confirmed in vivo following exposure of rat carotid arteries to CSE. Chromatin immune-precipitation assays in vivo and in vitro demonstrated that CSE promotes epigenetic changes with binding of KLF4 to the promoter regions of myocardin and SMC marker genes and alterations in promoter acetylation and methylation.Conclusion:CSE exposure results in phenotypic modulation of cerebral SMC through myocardin and KLF4 dependent mechanisms. These results provides a mechanism by which cigarette smoke induces a pro-inflammatory/matrix remodeling phenotype in SMC and an important pathway for cigarette smoke to contribute to atherosclerosis and stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere71954
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 14 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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