Expression of a Functional IL-2 Receptor in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells

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Many nonlymphoid cell types express at least two, if not all three, subunits of the IL-2R; although, compared with lymphocytes, relatively little is known about how IL-2 affects the function of nonlymphoid cells. The limited information available suggests that IL-2 has a substantial impact on cells such as gastrointestinal epithelial cells, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts. In a previous report from our laboratory, we noted that IL-2 and IL-2Rβ–deficient mice lose smooth muscle cells over time, eventually resulting in aneurysmal aortas and ectatic esophagi. This finding, combined with our work showing that IL-2 surrounds vascular smooth muscle cells by association with perlecan, led us to ask whether vascular smooth muscle cells express an IL-2R. Toward this end, we reported the expression of IL-2Rβ on human and murine vascular smooth muscle cells. We now report that vascular smooth muscle cells express all three subunits of the IL-2R, and that expression of IL-2Rα varies with vascular smooth muscle cell phenotype. Furthermore, we show that, through a functional IL-2R, IL-2 initiates signaling pathways and impacts vascular smooth muscle cell function. Finally, we demonstrate that IL-2 expression increases upon initiation of conditions that promote intimal hyperplasia, suggesting a mechanism by which the IL-2/IL-2R system may impact this widespread vascular pathology.



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