For 3 decades, terms such as synthetic phenotype and contractile phenotype have been used to imply the existence of a specific mechanism for smooth muscle cell (SMC) responses to injury. In this issue of the JCI, Hendrix et al. offer a far more precise approach to examining the mechanisms of SMC responses to injury, focused not on general changes in phenotype but on effects of injury on a single promoter element, the CArG [CC(A/T)6GG] box, in a single gene encoding smooth muscle (SM) α-actin. Since CArG box structures are present in some, but not all, SMC genes, these data suggest that we may be progressing toward establishing a systematic, molecular classification of both SMC subsets and the response of SMCs to different injuries.
William M. Mahoney Jr., Stephen M. Schwartz