Activation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 and its downstream signaling promote cell survival under oxidative stress.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) mediate cell damage and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of diseases that involve endothelial injury. Cells possess antioxidant systems, including intracellular antioxidants and ROS scavenging enzymes, that control the redox state and prevent cell damage. In addition to intracellular antioxidants, certain growth factor receptors can be activated under oxidative stress and trigger downstream cell survival signaling cascades. Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 (VEGFR-3) is a primary modulator of lymphatic endothelial proliferation and survival. Here, we provide evidence that activation of VEGFR-3 signaling in response to hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) promotes endothelial cell survival. Treatment with H(2)O(2) induced the tyrosine phosphorylation of VEGFR-3 and its association with the signaling adaptor proteins Shc, growth factor receptor binding protein 2, Sos, p85, SHP-2, and phospholipase C-gamma. Of note, a hereditary lymphoedema-linked mutant of VEGFR-3 was not phosphorylated by H(2)O(2) treatment. Isoforms of protein kinase C (PKC), alpha and delta, were also tyrosine-phosphorylated after H(2)O(2) stimulation. However, only the delta isoform of PKC was required for H(2)O(2)-induced phosphorylation of VEGFR-3. The tyrosine phosphorylation of VEGFR-3 or isoforms of PKC was completely inhibited by treatment with 4-amino-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-7-(t-butyl)pyrazolo[3,4-d]pyrimidine, a specific inhibitor for Src family kinases, indicating that Src family kinases are upstream of PKC and VEGFR-3. Furthermore, expression of the wild-type but not the lymphoedema-linked mutant form of VEGFR-3 in porcine artery endothelial cells significantly enhanced the activation of Akt after H(2)O(2) stimulation. Consistent with these biochemical changes, we observed that expression and activation of the wild-type but not the mutant form of VEGFR-3 inhibited H(2)O(2)-induced apoptosis. These studies suggest that VEGFR-3 protects against oxidative damage in endothelial cells, and that patients with hereditary lymphoedema may be susceptible to ROS-induced cell damage.