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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Secondhand smoke exposure induces Raf/ERK/MAPK-mediated upregulation of cerebrovascular endothelin ETA receptors

Lei Cao1, Cang-Bao Xu1*, Yaping Zhang1, Yong-Xiao Cao2 and Lars Edvinsson1

Author affiliations

1 Division of Experimental Vascular Research, Institute of Clinical Science in Lund, Lund University, Sweden

2 Department of Pharmacology, Xi'an Jiaotong University College of Medicine, Xi'an, Shaanxi, P. R. China

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:109  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-109

Published: 1 November 2011



Cigarette smoking enhances the risk of stroke. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are largely unknown. The present study established an in vivo rat secondhand cigarette smoking (SHS) model and examined the hypothesis that SHS upregulates endothelin receptors with increased cerebrovascular contraction via the Raf/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) pathway.


Rats were exposed to SHS for up to 8 weeks. The cerebral artery vasoconstriction was recorded by a sensitive myograph. The mRNA and protein expressions for endothelin receptors in cerebral arteries were studied by real-time PCR and Western blot. Compared to fresh air exposed rats, cerebral arteries from SHS rats exhibited stronger contractile responses (P < 0.05) mediated by endothelin type A (ETA) receptors. The expressions of mRNA and protein for ETA receptors in the cerebral arteries from SHS rats were higher (P < 0.05) than that in control. SHS did not affect endothelin type B (ETB) receptor-mediated contractions, mRNA or protein levels. The results suggest that SHS upregulates ETA, but not ETB receptors in vivo. After SHS exposure, the mRNA levels of Raf-1 and ERK1/2, the protein expression of phosphorylated (p)-Raf-1 and p-ERK1/2 were increased (P < 0.05). Raf-1 inhibitor, GW5074 suppressed the enhanced ETA receptor-mediated contraction, mRNA and protein levels induced by SHS. In addition, GW5074 inhibited the SHS-caused increased mRNA and phosphorylated protein levels of Raf-1 and ERK1/2, suggesting that SHS induces activation of the Raf/ERK/MAPK pathway.


SHS upregulates cerebrovascular ETA receptors via the Raf/ERK/MAPK pathway, which provides novel understanding of mechanisms involved in SHS-associated stroke.