Collagens act as important signaling molecules regulating vascular smooth muscle cell responses during arterial wound repair. Discoidin domain receptors (DDRs) are a novel class of receptor tyrosine kinases that bind to several collagens and stimulate matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) production, but little is known about their expression and function in the vasculature. We posited a critical role for the DDRs controlling smooth muscle cell migration and proliferation and thus repair following arterial injury. Smooth muscle cells were isolated from the aortas of mice with a targeted deletion of the DDR1 gene (DDR1-null) and studied in culture using models that mimic critical steps in neointimal thickening. Our studies suggest that DDR1 plays an important role in regulating attachment to collagen, chemotaxis, proliferation, and MMP production in smooth muscle cells. Following mechanical injury to the carotid arteries, cross-sectional area of the neointima was significantly lower in DDR1-null mice than in wild-type mice. There was also a significant decrease in collagen deposition in the injured arteries of the DDR1-null mice. Our results support the hypothesis that DDR1 plays an important role as a collagen receptor, mediating intimal thickening after vascular injury.
Guangpei Hou, Wolfgang Vogel, Michelle P. Bendeck