Our laboratory has demonstrated that insulin rapidly stimulates myosin-bound phosphatase (MBP) activity in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). In this study, we examined whether diabetes is accompanied by alterations in MBP activation and elucidated the components of the signaling pathway that mediate the effects of diabetes. VSMCs isolated from Goto-Kakizaki (GK) diabetic rats (a model for type 2 diabetes) exhibited marked impairment in MBP activation by insulin that was accompanied by failure of insulin to decrease the phosphorylation of a regulatory myosin-bound subunit (MBS) of MBP and inhibit Rho kinase activity resulting in increased myosin light-chain (MLC)20 phosphorylation and VSMC contraction. In VSMCs isolated from control rats, insulin inactivates Rho kinase and decreases MBS phosphorylation, leading to MBP activation. In addition to this pathway, insulin also appears to activate MBP by stimulating the phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase/nitric oxide (NO)/cGMP signaling pathway because treatment with the synthetic inhibitors of PI 3-kinase, NO synthase (NOS), and cGMP all blocked insulin's effect on MBP activation, whereas cGMP agonists and sodium nitroprusside (SNP) mimicked insulin's effect on MBP activation. VSMCs from diabetic GK rats exhibit reductions in insulin-mediated induction of inducible NOS protein expression and cGMP generation but normal MBP activation in response to SNP and cGMP agonist. This observation led us to examine the effect of diabetes on the activation status of the upstream insulin-signaling components. Although GK diabetes did not affect insulin-stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of the insulin receptor or its content, insulin-stimulated insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1 tyrosine phosphorylation was severely impaired. This was accompanied by marked reductions in IRS-1-associated PI 3-kinase activity. We conclude that insulin stimulates MBP via its regulatory subunit, MBS, by inactivating Rho kinase and stimulating NO/cGMP signaling via PI 3-kinase as part of a complex signaling network that controls MLC20 phosphorylation and VSMC contraction. Defective signaling via Rho kinase and the IRS-1/PI 3-kinase/NOS/cGMP pathway may mediate the inhibitory effects of hyperglycemia and diabetes on MBP activation in this experimental model.

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