Fractalkine is expressed by smooth muscle cells in response to IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha and is modulated by metalloproteinase activity
Fractalkine/CX3C-chemokine ligand 1 is expressed as a membrane-spanning adhesion molecule that can be cleaved from the cell surface to produce a soluble chemoattractant. Within the vasculature, fractalkine is known to be generated by endothelial cells, but to date there are no reports describing its expression by smooth muscle cells (SMC). In this study we demonstrate that IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, but not IL-1beta, cooperate synergistically to induce fractalkine mRNA and protein expression In cultured aortic SMC. We also report the release of functional, soluble fractalkine from the membranes of stimulated SMC. This release is inhibited by the zinc metalloproteinase inhibitor batimastat, resulting in the accumulation of membrane-associated fractalkine on the SMC surface. Therefore, an SMC-derived metalloproteinase activity is involved in fractalkine shedding. While soluble fractalkine present in SMC-conditioned medium is capable of inducing calcium transients in cells expressing the fractalkine receptor (CX3CR1), blocking experiments using neutralizing Abs reveal that it can be inactivated without affecting the chemotactic activity of SMC-conditioned media on monocytes. However, membrane-bound fractalkine plays a major role in promoting adhesion of monocytic cells to activated SMC. This fractalkine-mediated adhesion is further enhanced in the presence of batimastat, indicating that shedding of fractalkine from the cell surface down-regulates the adhesive properties of SMC. Hence, during vascular inflammation, the synergistic induction of fractalkine by IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha together with its metalloproteinase-mediated cleavage may finely control the recruitment of monocytes to SMC within the blood vessel wall.