The intracellular events regulating endothelial cell proliferation and organization into formalized capillaries are not known. We report that the protein kinase C activator beta-phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate (PDBu) suppresses bovine capillary endothelial (BCE) cell proliferation (K50 = 6 +/- 4 nM) and DNA synthesis in response to human hepatoma-derived growth factor, an angiogenic endothelial mitogen. In contrast, PDBu has no effect on the proliferation of bovine aortic endothelial cells and is mitogenic for bovine aortic smooth muscle and BALB/c 3T3 cells. Several observations indicate that the inhibition of human hepatoma-derived growth factor-stimulated BCE cell growth by PDBu is mediated through protein kinase C. Different phorbol compounds inhibit BCE cell growth according to their potencies as protein kinase C activators (12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate greater than PDBu much greater than beta-phorbol 12,13-diacetate much much greater than beta-phorbol; alpha-phorbol 12,13-dibutyrate; alpha-phorbol 12,13-didecanoate). PDBu binds to a single class of specific, saturable sites on the BCE cell with an apparent Kd of 8 nM, in agreement with reported affinities of PDBu for protein kinase C in other systems. Specific binding of PDBu to BCE cells is displaced by sn-1,2-dioctanoylglycerol, a protein kinase C activator and an analog of the putative second messenger activating this kinase in vivo. The weak protein kinase C activator, sn-1,2-dibutyrylglycerol, does not affect PDBu binding. A cytosolic extract from BCE cells contains a calcium/phosphatidylserine-dependent protein kinase that is activated by sn-1,2-dioctanoylglycerol and PDBu, but not by beta-phorbol. These findings indicate that protein kinase C activation can cause capillary endothelial cells to become desensitized to angiogenic endothelial mitogens. This intracellular regulatory mechanism might be invoked during certain phases of angiogenesis, for example when proliferating endothelial cells become differentiated to organize into nongrowing tubes.

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