Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) has been postulated to function as a smooth muscle cell (SMC) mitogen and to play a role in the pathogenesis of bladder hypertrophy, estrogen-induced uterine growth, and restenosis after arterial angioplasty. IGF-binding protein-4 (IGFBP-4) inhibits IGF-I action in vitro and is the most abundant IGFBP in the rodent arterial wall. To explore the function of this binding protein in vivo, transgenic mouse lines were developed harboring fusion genes consisting of a rat IGFBP-4 complementary DNA cloned downstream of either a -724 bp fragment of the mouse smooth muscle α-actin 5'-flanking region (SMP2-BP-4) or -1074 bp, 63 bp of 5'-untranslated region, and 2.5 kb of intron 1 of smooth muscle α-actin (SMP8-BP-4). SMP2-BP-4 mice expressed low levels of the exogenous IGFBP-4 messenger RNA (mRNA), which was not specifically targeted to SMC-rich tissue environments, and were therefore not analyzed further. Six SMP8-BP-4 transgenic lines derived from separate founders were characterized. Mating of hemizygous SMP8-BP-4 mice with controls produced about 50% transgenic offspring, with equal sex distribution. Expression of IGFBP-4 mRNA in nontransgenic littermates was maximal in liver and kidney. By contrast, transgenic IGFBP-4 mRNA expression, distinguished because of a smaller transcript size, was confined to SMC-containing tissues, with the following hierarchy: bladder > aorta > stomach = uterus. There was no transgene expression in skeletal muscle, brain, or cardiac myocytes. The abundance of IGFBP-4 measured by Western ligand blotting or by immunoblotting, was 8- to 10-fold higher in aorta and bladder of SMP8-BP-4 mice than in their nontransgenic littermates, with no change in plasma IGFBP-4 levels. Transgenic mice exhibited a significant reduction in wet weight of SMC-rich tissues, including bladder, intestine, aorta, uterus, and stomach, with no change in total body or carcass weight. In situ hybridization showed that transgene expression was targeted exclusively to the muscular layers of the arteries, veins, bladder, ureter, stomach, intestine, and uterus. Overexpression of IGFBP-4 was associated with SMC hypoplasia, a reciprocal phenotype to that of transgenic mice overexpressing IGF-I under control of the same promoter (SMP8-IGF-I). Double transgenic mice derived from mating SMP8-BP-4 with SMP8-IGF-I animals showed a modest decrease in wet weight at selected SMC tissues. Although we cannot exclude that the effects of IGFBP-4 may be IGF independent, these data suggest that IGFBP-4 is a functional antagonist of IGF-I action on SMC in vivo.
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