Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), a smooth muscle cell (SMC) mitogen, and heparin-like glycosaminoglycans, known inhibitors of SMC growth and migration, were found to regulate thrombospondin synthesis and matrix deposition by cultured rat aortic SMC. The synthesis and distribution of thrombospondin was examined in growth-arrested SMCs, in PDGF-stimulated SMCs, and in heparin-treated SMCs using metabolic labeling and immunofluorescence techniques. Thrombospondin synthesis in response to purified PDGF occurred within 1 h after addition of growth factor to growth-arrested SMCs, peaked at 2 h, and returned to baseline levels by 5 h. The induction of synthesis of thrombospondin by PDGF was dose dependent, with a maximal effect observed at 2.5 ng/ml. Actinomycin D (2 micrograms/ml) inhibited thrombospondin induction by PDGF, suggesting a requirement for new RNA synthesis. In the presence of heparin and related polyanions, the incorporation of thrombospondin into the SMC extracellular matrix was markedly reduced. This effect was dose dependent with a maximal effect observed at a heparin concentration of 1 microgram/ml. Heparin did not affect the ability of SMCs to synthesize thrombospondin in response to PDGF. We interpret these data to suggest a role for thrombospondin in the SMC proliferative response to PDGF and in the regulation of SMC growth and migration by glycosaminoglycans.

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