Venous valve (VV) failure causes chronic venous insufficiency, but the molecular regulation of valve development is poorly understood. A primary lymphatic anomaly, caused by mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase EPHB4, was recently described, with these patients also presenting with venous insufficiency. Whether the venous anomalies are the result of an effect on VVs is not known. VV formation requires complex “organization” of valve-forming endothelial cells, including their reorientation perpendicular to the direction of blood flow. Using quantitative ultrasound, we identified substantial VV aplasia and deep venous reflux in patients with mutations in EPHB4. We used a GFP reporter in mice to study expression of its ligand, ephrinB2, and analyzed developmental phenotypes after conditional deletion of floxed Ephb4 and Efnb2 alleles. EphB4 and ephrinB2 expression patterns were dynamically regulated around organizing valve-forming cells. Efnb2 deletion disrupted the normal endothelial expression patterns of the gap junction proteins connexin37 and connexin43 (both required for normal valve development) around reorientating valve-forming cells and produced deficient valve-forming cell elongation, reorientation, polarity, and proliferation. Ephb4 was also required for valve-forming cell organization and subsequent growth of the valve leaflets. These results uncover a potentially novel cause of primary human VV aplasia.
Oliver Lyons, James Walker, Christopher Seet, Mohammed Ikram, Adam Kuchta, Andrew Arnold, Magda Hernández-Vásquez, Maike Frye, Gema Vizcay-Barrena, Roland A. Fleck, Ashish S. Patel, Soundrie Padayachee, Peter Mortimer, Steve Jeffery, Siren Berland, Sahar Mansour, Pia Ostergaard, Taija Makinen, Bijan Modarai, Prakash Saha, Alberto Smith