Survivin regulates intracellular stiffness and extracellular matrix production in vascular smooth muscle cells

Amanda Krajnik, Erik Nimmer, Joseph A. Brazzo, John C. Biber, Rhonda Drewes, Bat Ider Tumenbayar, Andra Sullivan, Khanh Pham, Alanna Krug, Yuna Heo, John Kolega, Su Jin Heo, Kwonmoo Lee, Brian R. Weil, Deok Ho Kim, Sachin A. Gupte, Yongho Bae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vascular dysfunction is a common cause of cardiovascular diseases characterized by the narrowing and stiffening of arteries, such as atherosclerosis, restenosis, and hypertension. Arterial narrowing results from the aberrant proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) and their increased synthesis and deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. These, in turn, are modulated by arterial stiffness, but the mechanism for this is not fully understood. We found that survivin is an important regulator of stiffness-mediated ECM synthesis and intracellular stiffness in VSMCs. Whole-transcriptome analysis and cell culture experiments showed that survivin expression is upregulated in injured femoral arteries in mice and in human VSMCs cultured on stiff fibronectin-coated hydrogels. Suppressed expression of survivin in human VSMCs significantly decreased the stiffness-mediated expression of ECM components related to arterial stiffening, such as collagen-I, fibronectin, and lysyl oxidase. By contrast, expression of these ECM proteins was rescued by ectopic expression of survivin in human VSMCs cultured on soft hydrogels. Interestingly, atomic force microscopy analysis showed that suppressed or ectopic expression of survivin decreases or increases intracellular stiffness, respectively. Furthermore, we observed that inhibiting Rac and Rho reduces survivin expression, elucidating a mechanical pathway connecting intracellular tension, mediated by Rac and Rho, to survivin induction. Finally, we found that survivin inhibition decreases FAK phosphorylation, indicating that survivin-dependent intracellular tension feeds back to maintain signaling through FAK. These findings suggest a novel mechanism by which survivin potentially modulates arterial stiffness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number046104
JournalAPL Bioengineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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