Giuseppe Pintucci

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

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Publications (37)151.33 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: TGF-β1 and VEGF, both angiogenesis inducers, have opposing effects on vascular endothelial cells. TGF-β1 induces apoptosis; VEGF induces survival. We have previously shown that TGF-β1 induces endothelial cell expression of VEGF, which mediates TGF-β1 induction of apoptosis through activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Because VEGF activates p38(MAPK) but protects the cells from apoptosis, this finding suggested that TGF-β1 converts p38(MAPK) signaling from prosurvival to proapoptotic. Four isoforms of p38(MAPK) -α, β, γ, and δ-have been identified. Therefore, we hypothesized that different p38(MAPK) isoforms control endothelial cell apoptosis or survival, and that TGF-β1 directs VEGF activation of p38(MAPK) from a prosurvival to a proapoptotic isoform. Here, we report that cultured endothelial cells express p38α, β, and γ. VEGF activates p38β, whereas TGF-β1 activates p38α. TGF-β1 treatment rapidly induces p38α activation and apoptosis. Subsequently, p38α activation is downregulated, p38β is activated, and the surviving cells become refractory to TGF-β1 induction of apoptosis and proliferate. Gene silencing of p38α blocks TGF-β1 induction of apoptosis, whereas downregulation of p38β or p38γ expression results in massive apoptosis. Thus, in endothelial cells p38α mediates apoptotic signaling, whereas p38β and p38γ transduce survival signaling. TGF-β1 activation of p38α is mediated by VEGF, which in the absence of TGF-β1 activates p38β. Therefore, these results show that TGF-β1 induces endothelial cell apoptosis by shifting VEGF signaling from the prosurvival p38β to the proapoptotic p38α.
    Molecular Cancer Research 04/2012; 10(5):605-14. · 4.35 Impact Factor
  • Molecular Cancer Research 01/2012; 10(5):605-614. · 4.35 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Surgical Research - J SURG RES. 01/2011; 165(2):171-171.
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    ABSTRACT: Serine proteases are a key component of the inflammatory response as they are discharged from activated leukocytes and mast cells or generated through the coagulation cascade. Their enzymatic activity plays a major role in the body's defense mechanisms but it has also an impact on vascular homeostasis and tissue remodeling. Here we focus on the biological role of serine proteases in the context of cardiovascular disease and their mechanism(s) of action in determining specific vascular and tissue phenotypes. Protease-activated receptors (PARs) mediate serine protease effects; however, these proteases also exert a number of biological activities independent of PARs as they target specific protein substrates implicated in vascular remodeling and the development of cardiovascular disease thus controlling their activities. In this review both PAR-dependent and -independent mechanisms of action of serine proteases are discussed for their relevance to vascular homeostasis and structural/functional alterations of the cardiovascular system. The elucidation of these mechanisms will lead to a better understanding of the molecular forces that control vascular and tissue homeostasis and to effective preventative and therapeutic approaches.
    Journal of Inflammation 01/2010; 7:45. · 2.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The inflammatory process of aortic stenosis involves the differentiation of aortic valve myofibroblasts into osteoblasts. Osteopontin, a proinflammatory glycoprotein, both stimulates differentiation of myofibroblasts and regulates the deposition of calcium by osteoblasts. Osteopontin levels are increased in patients with such conditions as end-stage renal disease, ectopic calcification, and autoimmune disease. We hypothesized that increased plasma osteopontin levels might be associated with the presence of aortic valve calcification and stenosis. Venous blood from volunteers older than 65 years undergoing routine echocardiographic analysis or aortic valve surgery for aortic stenosis was collected. Plasma osteopontin levels were measured by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The presence of aortic stenosis was defined as an aortic valve area of less than 2.0 cm(2). Aortic valve calcification was assessed by using a validated echocardiographic grading system (1, none; 2, mild; 3, moderate; 4, severe). Comparisons were performed with nonpaired t tests. Aortic stenosis was present in 23 patients (mean age, 78 years) and was absent in 7 patients (mean age, 72 years). Aortic valve calcification scores were 3.5 +/- 0.6 and 1.3 +/- 0.5 in patients with and without aortic stenosis, respectively (P < .001). Patients with no or mild aortic valve calcification had lower osteopontin levels compared with patients with moderate or severe aortic valve calcification (406.1 +/- 165.8 vs 629.5 +/- 227.5 ng/mL, P = .01). Similarly, patients with aortic stenosis had higher osteopontin levels compared with patients without aortic stenosis (652.2 +/- 218.7 vs 379.7 +/- 159.9 ng/mL, P < .01). Increased levels of plasma osteopontin are associated with the presence of aortic valve calcification and stenosis. These findings suggest that osteopontin might play a functional role in the pathogenesis of calcific aortic stenosis.
    The Journal of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery 08/2009; 138(1):196-9. · 3.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: VEGF and TGF-beta1 induce angiogenesis but have opposing effects on endothelial cells. VEGF protects endothelial cells from apoptosis; TGF-beta1 induces apoptosis. We have previously shown that VEGF/VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR2) signaling mediates TGF-beta1 induction of apoptosis. This finding raised an important question: Does this mechanism stimulate or inhibit angiogenesis? Here we report that VEGF-mediated apoptosis is required for TGF-beta1 induction of angiogenesis. In vitro the apoptotic effect of TGF-beta1 on endothelial cells is rapid and followed by a long period in which the cells are refractory to apoptosis induction by TGF-beta1. Inhibition of VEGF/VEGFR2 signaling abrogates formation of cord-like structures by TGF-beta1 with an effect comparable to that of z-VAD, an apoptosis inhibitor. Similarly, genetic deficiency of VEGF abolishes TGF-beta1 upregulation of endothelial cell differentiation and formation of vascular structures in embryoid bodies. In vivo TGF-beta1 induces endothelial cell apoptosis as rapidly as in vitro. Inhibition of VEGF blocks TGF-beta1 induction of both apoptosis and angiogenesis, an effect similar to that of z-VAD. Thus, TGF-beta1 induction of angiogenesis requires a rapid and transient apoptotic effect mediated by VEGF/VEGFR2. This novel, unexpected role of VEGF and VEGFR2 indicates VEGF-mediated apoptosis as a potential target to control angiogenesis.
    Journal of Cellular Physiology 02/2009; 219(2):449-58. · 4.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: VEGF and TGF-beta1 induce angiogenesis but have opposing effects on vascular endothelial cells: VEGF promotes survival; TGF-beta1 induces apoptosis. We have previously shown that TGF-beta1 induces endothelial cell apoptosis via up-regulation of VEGF expression and activation of signaling through VEGF receptor-2 (flk-1). In context with TGF-beta1, VEGF signaling is transiently converted from a survival into an apoptotic one. VEGF promotes cell survival in part via activation of PI3K/Akt by a mechanism dependent on the formation of a multi-protein complex that includes flk-1 and the adherens junction proteins VE-cadherin and beta-catenin. Here we report that TGF-beta1 induces rearrangement of the adherens junction complex by separating flk-1 from VE-cadherin and increasing beta-catenin association with both flk-1 and VE-cadherin. This rearrangement is caused neither by changes in adherens junction mRNA or protein expression nor by post-translational modification, and requires VEGF signaling through flk-1. These results show that the adherens junction is an important regulatory component of TGF-beta1-VEGF interaction in endothelial cells.
    Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 12/2008; 105(6):1367-73. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The fgf-2 gene encodes low molecular weight (LMW, 18 kDa) and high molecular weight (HMW, 22-24 kDa) forms that originate from alternative translation of a single mRNA and exhibit diverse biological functions. HMW fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) inhibits cell migration and induces cell transformation or growth arrest in a cell type- and dose-dependent fashion. Conversely, LMW FGF-2 upregulates both cell proliferation and migration in most cell types. Although transcriptional and translational regulation of HMW and LMW FGF-2 has been extensively investigated, little is known about post-translational control of their relative expression. Here we report that thrombin, a key coagulation factor and inflammatory mediator, cleaves HMW FGF-2 into an LMW FGF-2-like form that stimulates endothelial cell migration and proliferation. The effect of thrombin on these cell functions requires HMW FGF-2 cleavage. This post-translational control mechanism adds a novel level of complexity to the regulation of FGF-2, and links the activities of thrombin and FGF-2 in patho-physiological processes in which both molecules are expressed.
    Oncogene 05/2008; 27(18):2594-601. · 8.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vein graft arterialization results in activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) extracellular signal-regulated kinases-1 and -2 (ERK1/2), which have been implicated in cell proliferation, migration, and apoptosis. The goal of our study was to characterize the effect of MAPK inhibition on intimal hyperplasia (IH) in arterialized vein grafts in hypercholesterolemic rabbits. Reversed bilateral jugular vein to common carotid artery interposition grafts were constructed in 16 New Zealand White rabbits. The veins were incubated for 30 min prior to grafting with either the synthetic ERK1/2 activation inhibitor UO126 or the control vehicle. Vein graft and control jugular vein were harvested 3 h, 1 d, and 28 d after arterialization for histological and biochemical analyses. Treatment with UO126 was associated with 31% reduction in mean intimal area (1.68 +/- 0.78 mm(2)versus 2.44 +/- 1.65 mm(2); mean +/- SD; P = 0.036) relative to controls. The intima-to-media ratio of UO126-treated vein grafts decreased by 29% (0.53 +/- 0.04 versus 0.74 +/- 0.06; mean +/- SD; P < 0.01) compared to controls, vehicle-treated vein grafts. There was also significant increase in apoptosis in UO126-treated vein graft medial cell layer at 1 d. Topical administration of UO126 before vein grafting significantly decreases IH in arterialized vein grafts in hypercholesterolemic rabbits. These results may have significant implications for the development of strategies aimed at blocking or reducing IH in bypass grafts. Therefore, further evaluation of this simple strategy to improve vein graft patency following coronary artery or peripheral vascular bypass surgery is warranted.
    Journal of Surgical Research 05/2008; 154(1):150-6. · 2.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP), a transmembrane proteinase with a short cytoplasmic domain and an extracellular catalytic domain, controls a variety of physiological and pathological processes through the proteolytic degradation of extracellular or transmembrane proteins. MT1-MMP forms a complex on the cell membrane with its physiological protein inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-2 (TIMP-2). Here we show that, in addition to extracellular proteolysis, MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 control cell proliferation and migration through a non-proteolytic mechanism. TIMP-2 binding to MT1-MMP induces activation of ERK1/2 by a mechanism that does not require the proteolytic activity and is mediated by the cytoplasmic tail of MT1-MMP. MT1-MMP-mediated activation of ERK1/2 up-regulates cell migration and proliferation in vitro independently of extracellular matrix proteolysis. Proteolytically inactive MT1-MMP promotes tumor growth in vivo, whereas proteolytically active MT1-MMP devoid of cytoplasmic tail does not have this effect. These findings illustrate a novel role for MT1-MMP-TIMP-2 interaction, which controls cell functions by a mechanism independent of extracellular matrix degradation.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2008; 283(1):87-99. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cardiovascular interventions that restore blood circulation to ischemic areas are accompanied by significant tissue damage, which triggers a vascular remodeling response that may result in restenosis of blood conduits. Early endothelial dysfunction and/or impairment is the early event of a cascade that leads, through an inflammatory response and dedifferentiation of medial smooth muscle cells with abundant deposition of extracellular matrix, to intimal hyperplasia. Here we present the molecular and cellular mechanisms of intimal hyperplasia secondary to vascular injury and discuss the potential role of therapeutic modulation of the intracellular signaling pathways that differentially effect vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells. The role of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and the outcome of their modulation in these processes are highlighted here as they provide a promising therapeutic target for prevention of restenosis.
    Cellular Signalling 08/2007; 19(7):1359-71. · 4.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: After over thirty years from its discovery, research on basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) keeps revealing new aspects of the complexity of its gene expression as it evolved in the eukaryotic organisms. The discovery of multiple forms of FGF-2 generated by alternative translation from AUG and non-canonical CUG codons on the same mRNA transcript has led to the characterization of a low molecular weight (LMW) FGF-2 form and various high molecular weight (HMW) forms (four in humans). In this review, we discuss the biochemical features and biological activities of the different FGF-2 forms. In particular, we focus on the properties that are unique to the HMW forms and its biological functions.
    Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 05/2007; 100(5):1100-8. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: VEGF and TGF-beta1 are potent angiogenesis inducers with opposing effects on endothelial cells. TGF-beta1 induces apoptosis; VEGF protects endothelial cells from apoptosis. We found that TGF-beta1 promotes endothelial cell expression of FGF-2, which up-regulates VEGF synthesis. Inhibition of VEGF signaling through VEGF receptor 2 (flk-1) abrogates TGF-beta1-induced apoptosis and p38(MAPK) activation. Inhibition of p38(MAPK) blocks TGF-beta1-induced apoptosis, showing that VEGF/flk-1-mediated activation of p38(MAPK) is required for TGF-beta1 induction of apoptosis. In the absence of TGF-beta1, VEGF activates p38(MAPK) and promotes endothelial cell survival. However, in context with TGF-beta1, VEGF/flk-1-mediated activation of p38(MAPK) results in apoptosis. Thus, cross-talk between TGF-beta1 and VEGF signaling converts VEGF/flk-1-activated p38(MAPK) into a proapoptotic signal. This finding illustrates an unexpected role of VEGF and indicates that VEGF can be pharmacologically converted into an apoptotic factor, a novel approach to antiangiogenesis therapy.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2006; 103(46):17260-5. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Upon injury, blood vessels undergo a significant remodeling characterized by intimal damage and dedifferentiation of medial smooth muscle cells. Normally quiescent medial cells lose their contractile phenotype and begin to proliferate, migrate, and secrete abundant extracellular matrix. The resulting neointima formation, also referred to as intimal hyperplasia, precedes atherosclerosis of the vascular conduits. Restenosis greatly limits the success of percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), two common procedures widely used to restore circulation in occluded vascular districts. Growth factors, cytokines, inflammatory mediators, and oxidative and shear stress are among the culprits that initiate this process. More recent studies have been directed towards the intracellular sensors of these stimuli in the hope of discovering the common mechanisms that control the response to injury. A group of enzymes called mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) play a central role in relaying extracellular stimuli to the cellular core, the nucleus. The discovery that MAPK intracellular signaling pathways control processes as diverse as cell proliferation, migration, and survival via fine modulation of gene expression has prompted a number of studies on MAPK involvement in the response to vascular injury. Here we review the studies that characterized MAPK activation upon arterial or vein graft injury and its involvement in vascular remodeling. The experimental findings indicate that the MAPK signaling pathways are suitable targets for novel therapies to prevent restenosis of blood conduits and extend their life span.
    Vascular Disease Prevention 07/2006; 3(3):173-183.
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    ABSTRACT: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play key roles in vascular remodeling. We characterized the role of inflammatory mediators and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) in the control of arterialized vein graft expression of MMP-9, MMP-2, and membrane-type 1-MMP (MT1-MMP) and of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-2 (TIMP-2). For this purpose we used a canine model of jugular vein to carotid artery interposition graft and analyzed the vein grafts at various postoperative times (30 min to 28 days) using the contralateral vein as a control. To study the role of ERK-1/2, veins were incubated with the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK-1/2) inhibitor UO126 for 30 min before being grafted. Vein graft extracts were analyzed for MMPs, TIMP-2, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) infiltration, myeloperoxidase (MPO), and thrombin activity, and for ERK-1/2 activation. Vein graft arterialization resulted in rapid and sustained (8 h to 28 days) upregulation of vein graft-associated MMP-9, MMP-2, MT1-MMP, thrombin activity, and TNF-alpha levels with concomitant TIMP-2 downregulation. MMP-2 activation preceded MT1-MMP upregulation. PMN infiltration and vein graft-associated MPO activity increased within hours after arterialization, indicating a prompt, local inflammatory response. In cultured smooth muscle cells, both thrombin and TNF-alpha upregulated MT1-MMP expression; however, only thrombin activated MMP-2. Inhibition of ERK-1/2 activation blocked arterialization-induced upregulation of MMP-2, MMP-9, and MT1-MMP. Thus, thrombin, inflammatory mediators, and activation of the ERK-1/2 pathway control MMP and TIMP-2 expression in arterialized vein grafts.
    AJP Heart and Circulatory Physiology 05/2006; 290(4):H1651-9. · 4.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: C-reactive protein (CRP), an acute phase reactant, is an independent predictor of coronary artery syndromes and a mediator of the vascular response to injury. CRP has been found in arterialized vein grafts and has been linked to atherogenesis; however, its involvement in vein graft early failure or intimal hyperplasia has not been assessed. This study was designed to investigate the mechanism(s) of CRP up-regulation in arterialized vein grafts. Carotid artery bypass with arterialized jugular vein grafts (AVG) was performed in 18 dogs. AVG were harvested at 3, 8, and 24 hours and 4, 14, and 28 days, using the femoral vein obtained at the time of AVG harvest as a control. Serum CRP levels were characterized by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; AVG expression of CRP was studied by immunofluorescence, Western blotting, in situ hybridization, Northern blotting, and quantitative RT-PCR. CRP levels peaked at 24 hours in serum and AVG but remained at baseline in control veins. By double immunofluorescence, CRP was associated with the media and adventitia of AVG. However, Northern blotting analysis showed no CRP mRNA expression in AVG. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analysis confirmed the lack of up-regulation of CRP in AVG. CRP levels are increased in AVG, peaking 24 hours after arterialization. However, no significant production of CRP was detected in AVG. Therefore, increased CRP levels within AVG appear to originate mostly from CRP diffusion from the systemic circulation. These results have significant implications for the development of strategies aimed at blocking CRP up-regulation in bypass grafts.
    Surgery 03/2006; 139(2):254-62. · 3.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Vein graft failure following bypass surgery is a frequent and important clinical problem. The vascular injury caused by arterialization is responsible for vein graft intimal hyperplasia, a lesion generated by medial smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration into the intima, increased extracellular matrix deposition, and formation of a thick neointima. Development of the neointima into a typical atherosclerotic lesion and consequent stenosis ultimately result in vein graft failure. Endothelial damage, inflammation, and intracellular signaling through mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) have been implicated in the early stages of this process. We therefore investigated the effects of topical inhibition of ERK-1/2 MAPK activation on vascular cell proliferation and apoptosis, and on the inflammatory response in a canine model of vein graft arterialization. For this purpose, vein grafts were incubated with the MEK-1/2 inhibitor, UO126, ex vivo for 30 min before grafting. This treatment effectively abolished arterialization-induced ERK-1/2 activation, decreased medial cell proliferation, and increased apoptosis. UO126 treatment also inhibited the vein graft infiltration by myeloperoxidase-positive inflammatory cells that follows vein graft arterialization. Thus, topical ex vivo administration of MAPK inhibitors can provide a pharmacological tool to prevent or reduce the vascular cell responses that lead to vein graft intimal hyperplasia and graft failure.
    The FASEB Journal 03/2006; 20(2):398-400. · 5.70 Impact Factor
  • JOURNAL OF VASCULAR RESEARCH; 01/2006
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    ABSTRACT: Basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) are implicated in vascular remodeling secondary to injury. Both growth factors control vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cell proliferation, migration, and survival through overlapping intracellular signaling pathways. In vascular smooth muscle cells PDGF-BB induces FGF-2 expression. However, the effect of PDGF on the different forms of FGF-2 has not been elucidated. Here, we report that treatment of vascular aortic smooth muscle cells with PDGF-BB rapidly induces expression of 20.5 and 21 kDa, high molecular weight (HMW) FGF-2 that accumulates in the nucleus and nucleolus. Conversely, PDGF treatment has little or no effect on 18 kDa, low-molecular weight FGF-2 expression. PDGF-BB-induced upregulation of HMW FGF-2 expression is controlled by sustained activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-1/2 and is abolished by actinomycin D. These data describe a novel interaction between PDGF-BB and FGF-2, and indicate that the nuclear forms of FGF-2 may mediate the effect of PDGF activity on vascular smooth muscle cells.
    Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 09/2005; 95(6):1292-300. · 3.06 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
151.33 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      • Division of Cardiovascular Surgery
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2008
    • NYU Langone Medical Center
      • Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
      New York City, NY, United States
    • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
      • Division of Thoracic Surgery
      Athens, Attiki, Greece
  • 1997–2006
    • New York University
      • • Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
      • • Department of Cell Biology
      New York City, NY, United States
  • 1995–2002
    • State University of New York Downstate Medical Center
      • • Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
      • • Department of Cell Biology
      Brooklyn, NY, United States
  • 2000
    • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
      • Division of Cell Biology
      New York City, NY, United States