In culture, vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC) grow in a "hill-and-valley" (multilayered) pattern of organization. We have studied the growth, behavioral organization, and biosynthetic phenotype of rat aortic SMC exposed to purified platelet-derived growth regulatory molecules. We show that multilayered growth is not a constitutive feature of cultured SMC, and that beta-type transforming growth factor (TGF-beta) is the primary determinant of multilayered growth and the hill-and-valley pattern of organization diagnostic for SMC in culture. TGF-beta inhibited, in a dose-dependent manner, the serum- or platelet-derived growth factor-mediated proliferation of these cells in two-dimensional culture, but only when cells were plated at subconfluent densities. The ability of TGF-beta to inhibit SMC growth was inversely correlated to plating cell density. When SMC were plated at monolayer density (5 X 10(4) cells/cm2) to allow maximal cell-to-cell contact, TGF-beta potentiated cell growth. This differential response of SMC to TGF-beta may contribute to the hill-and-valley pattern of organization. Unlike its effect on other cell types, TGF-beta did not enhance the synthesis of fibronectin or its incorporation into the extracellular matrix. However, the synthesis of a number of other secreted proteins was altered by TGF-beta treatment. SMC treated with TGF-beta for 4 or 8 h secreted markedly enhanced amounts of an Mr 38,000-D protein doublet whose synthesis is known to be increased by heparin (another inhibitor of SMC growth), suggesting metabolic similarities between heparin- and TGF-beta-mediated SMC growth inhibition. The data suggest that TGF-beta may play an important and complex regulatory role in SMC proliferation and organization during development and after vascular injury.

This content is only available as a PDF.