Objective Versican is a versatile and highly interactive chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan that is found in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of many tissues and is a major component of developing and developed lesions in atherosclerotic vascular disease. In this paper, we present data to indicate that versican may have important intracellular functions in addition to its better known roles in the ECM. Methods and Results Rat aortic smooth muscle cells were fixed and immunostained for versican and images of fluorescently labeled cells were obtained by confocal microscopy. Intracellular versican was detected in the nucleus and cytosol of vascular smooth muscle cells. The use of a synthetic neutralizing peptide eliminated versican immunostaining, demonstrating the specificity of the antibody used in this study. Western blot of pure nuclear extracts confirmed the presence of versican in the nucleus, and multifluorescent immunostaining showed strong colocalization of versican and nucleolin, suggesting a nucleolar localization of versican in nondividing cells. In dividing valve interstitial cells, a strong signal for versican was observed in and around the condensed chromosomes during the various stages of mitosis. Multifluorescent immunostaining for versican and tubulin revealed versican aggregated at opposing poles of the mitotic spindle during metaphase. Knockdown of versican expression using siRNA disrupted the organization of the mitotic spindle and led to the formation of multipolar spindles during metaphase. Conclusions Collectively, these data suggest an intracellular function for versican in vascular cells where it appears to play a role in mitotic spindle organization during cell division. These observations open a new avenue for studies of versican, suggesting even more diverse roles in vascular health and disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine