Vascular endothelial growth factor A (here referred to as VEGF) is an endothelium-specific growth factor that binds to two distinct receptor tyrosine kinases, designated Flt-1 and KDR/Flk-1. VEGF stimulates autophosphorylation of both receptors, but little is known about their signal transduction properties. In this study, we used porcine aortic endothelial (PAE) cells overexpressing KDR (PAE/KDR) to evaluate the interaction of KDR with intracellular proteins and compared them with Flt-1-expressing PAE cells (PAE/Flt-1). VEGF-induced stimulation of KDR results in the association and phosphorylation of the 46-, 52-, and 66-kDa isoforms of Shc and the induction of Shc-Grb2 complex formation. In a similar fashion, KDR associates with Grb2 and Nck in a ligand-dependent fashion, suggesting Shc, Grb2, and Nck as potential candidates involved in the regulation of endothelial function. Another strong candidate is mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, which is strongly activated in response to VEGF stimulation as demonstrated by phosphorylation of the specific substrate myelin basic protein. Inhibition of MAP kinase activation by PD98059, a specific MAP kinase kinase inhibitor, results in inhibition of VEGF-induced proliferation of PAE/KDR cells. In contrast, VEGF-induced stimulation of Flt-1 does not activate MAP kinase in PAE/Flt-1 cells. In this study we provide the first two examples of molecules potentially capable of functionally counteracting the endothelial response to VEGF, namely SHP-1 and SHP-2. These two SH2 protein-tyrosine phosphatases physically associate with KDR secondary to VEGF stimulation, raising the interesting possibility that both molecules participate in the generation and/or modulation of VEGF-induced signals. Taken together, our results substantially broaden the spectrum of KDR-associating molecules, indicating that endothelial function and angiogenesis are regulated by a diverse network of signal transduction cascades.
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