Lactate promotes synthetic phenotype in vascular smooth muscle cells

Libang Yang, Ling Gao, Thomas Nickel, Jing Yang, Jingyi Zhou, Adam J Gilbertsen, Zhaohui Geng, Caitlin Johnson, Bernice Young, Craig A Henke, Glenn R Gourley, Jianyi Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Rationale: The phenotypes of vascular smooth muscle cells (vSMCs) comprise a continuum bounded by predominantly contractile and synthetic cells. Some evidence suggests that contractile vSMCs can assume a more synthetic phenotype in response to ischemic injury, but the mechanisms that activate this phenotypic switch are poorly understood. Objective: To determine whether lactate, which increases in response to regional ischemia, may promote the synthetic phenotype in vSMCs. Methods and Results: Experiments were performed with vSMCs that had been differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells and then cultured in glucose-free, lactate-enriched (L+) medium or in standard (L-) medium. Compared with the L- medium, the L+ medium was associated with significant increases in synthetic vSMC marker expression, proliferation, and migration and with significant declines in contractile and apoptotic activity. Furthermore, these changes were accompanied by increases in the expression of monocarboxylic acid transporters and were generally attenuated both by the blockade of monocarboxylic acid transporter activity and by transfection with iRNA for NDRG (N-myc downstream regulated gene). Proteomics, biomarker, and pathway analyses suggested that the L+ medium tended to upregulate the expression of synthetic vSMC markers, the production of extracellular proteins that participate in tissue construction or repair, and the activity of pathways that regulate cell proliferation and migration. Observations in hypoxia-cultured vSMCs were similar to those in L+-cultured vSMCs, and assessments in a swine myocardial infarction model suggested that measurements of lactate levels, lactate-dehydrogenase levels, vSMC proliferation, and monocarboxylic acid transporter and NDRG expression were greater in the ischemic zone than in nonischemic tissues. Conclusions: These results demonstrate for the first time that vSMCs assume a more synthetic phenotype in a microenvironment that is rich in lactate. Thus, mechanisms that link glucose metabolism to vSMC phenotypic switching could play a role in the pathogenesis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1251-1262
Number of pages12
JournalCirculation research
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the following funding sources: National Institutes of Health RO1 HL 99507, HL114120, HL 131017, and UO1 HL134764.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Heart Association, Inc.


  • Induced pluripotent stem cells
  • Monocarboxylic acid transporters
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Phenotype
  • Swine


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