Conditioned medium (CM) derived from co-cultures of bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs) and bovine smooth muscle cells (BSMCs) contains transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) formed via a plasmin-dependent activation of latent TGF-beta (LTGF beta), which occurs in heterotypic but not in homotypic cultures (Sato, Y., and D. B. Rifkin. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 107: 1199-1205). The TGF-beta formed is able to block the migration of BSMCs or BAECs. We have found that the simultaneous addition to heterotypic culture medium of plasminogen and the atherogenic lipoprotein, lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)), which contains plasminogen-like kringles, inhibits the activation of LTGF-beta in a dose-dependent manner. The inclusion of LDL in the culture medium did not show such an effect. Control experiments indicated that Lp(a) does not interfere with the basal level of cell migration, the activity of exogenous added TGF-beta, the release of LTGF-beta from cells, the activation of LTGF-beta either by plasmin or by transient acidification, or the activity of plasminogen activator. The addition of Lp(a) to the culture medium decreased the amount of plasmin found in BAECs/BSMCs cultures. Similar results were obtained using CM derived from cocultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells and human foreskin fibroblasts. These results suggest that Lp(a) can inhibit the activation of LTGF-beta by competing with the binding of plasminogen to cell or matrix surfaces. Therefore, high plasma levels of Lp(a) might enhance smooth muscle cell migration by decreasing the levels of the migration inhibitor TGF-beta thus contributing to generation of the atheromatous lesions.

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