Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) is an essential regulator of the differentiated vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotype. Our goal was to establish that PTEN loss promotes SMC dedifferentiation and pathological vascular remodeling in human atherosclerotic coronary arteries and nonatherosclerotic coronary arteries exposed to continuous-flow left ventricular assist devices (CF-LVADs). Arteries were categorized as nonatherosclerotic hyperplasia (NAH), atherosclerotic hyperplasia (AH), or complex plaque (CP). NAH coronary arteries from CF-LVAD patients were compared to NAH coronaries from non-LVAD patients. Intimal PTEN and SMC contractile protein expression was reduced compared with the media in arteries with NAH, AH, or CP. Compared with NAH, PTEN and SMC contractile protein expression was reduced in the media and intima of arteries with AH and CP. NAH arteries from CF-LVAD patients showed marked vascular remodeling and reduced PTEN and α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA) in medial SMCs compared with arteries from non-LVAD patients; this correlated with increased medial collagen deposition. Mechanistically, compared with ApoE–/– mice, SMC-specific PTEN-null/ApoE–/– double-knockout mice exhibited accelerated atherosclerosis progression and increased vascular fibrosis. By microarray and validated quantitative RT-PCR analysis, SMC PTEN deficiency promotes a global upregulation of proinflammatory and profibrotic genes. We propose that PTEN is an antiinflammatory, antifibrotic target that functions to maintain SMC differentiation. SMC loss of PTEN results in pathological vascular remodeling of human arteries.
Karen S. Moulton, Marcella Li, Keith Strand, Shawna Burgett, Penn McClatchey, Rebecca Tucker, Seth B. Furgeson, Sizhao Lu, Bruce Kirkpatrick, Joseph C. Cleveland, Raphael A. Nemenoff, Amrut V. Ambardekar, Mary C.M. Weiser-Evans