High molecular weight kininogen (HK) is an abundant plasma protein that serves as an important component of the intrinsic pathway of coagulation. HK normally circulates as in the single chain form, but may be cleaved by plasma kallikrein to release the nonapeptide bradykinin, resulting in the formation cleaved high molecular weight kininogen (HKa) that consists of a heavy and light chain linked by a single disulfide bond. Conformational changes occurring after kallikrein cleavage result in increased exposure of histidine and glycine-rich regions with kininogen domain 5 that impart HKa with unique properties, including the ability to inhibit angiogenesis by causing selective apoptosis of proliferating endothelial cells. However, the receptors that mediate the antiangiogenic activity of HKa remain controversial, and the signaling pathways that lead to apoptosis have not been defined. Previous studies suggested possible involvement of SRC family kinases (SFK) in this process, and the purpose of this work was to further define the activation of SFKs and their downstream targets during HKa-induced endothelial cell apoptosis.
We first assessed the activation of SFKs in proliferating endothelial cells stimulated with bFGF before and after incubation with HKa (6–20 nM). SFKs are maintained in an inactive state through tyrosine phosphorylation of their C-terminal region mediated by the negative regulator C-terminal Src kinase (Csk). Exposure of endothelial cells to HKa caused downregulation of Csk in a dose-dependent manner within 60 minutes. In parallel, we observed a significant increase in expression of the proapoptotic SFK Lck in endothelial cells exposed to HKa, though expression of other SFKs including Lyn, Fyn, Src, Hck and Blk were not significantly altered. Increased expression of Lck was associated with activation of p53 and increased expression of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members Bax and Bak. Endothelial cell lysates prepared within 60 minutes of exposure to HKa demonstrated significant increases in the activity of caspases 3 and 7, as well as depletion of DNA fragmentation factors (DFF) 45 and 35, which cleave and inactivate DFF40, a major endonuclease involved in apoptosis. In parallel studies, endothelial cells depleted of Lck by treatment with Lck siRNA displayed loss of p53 phosphorylation, caspase 3 and 7 activity, and expression of Bax and Bad with no effects on the expression of Bad and Bid.
These findings demonstrate a critical role for Csk in regulation of SFK activation and endothelial homeostasis, and demonstrate that downregulation of Csk by HKa leads to activation of a Lck-dependent, p53-mediated apoptotic pathway. Increasing the expression of Lck may represent a novel mechanism for regulation of aberrant angiogenesis.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.