Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a fatal disease of unknown etiology characterized by a compositionally and mechanically altered extracellular matrix. Poor understanding of the origin of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expressing myofibroblasts has hindered curative therapies. Though proposed as a source of myofibroblasts in mammalian tissues, identification of microvascular pericytes (PC) as contributors to α-SMA–expressing populations in human IPF and the mechanisms driving this accumulation remain unexplored. Here, we demonstrate enhanced detection of α-SMA+ cells coexpressing the PC marker neural/glial antigen 2 in the human IPF lung. Isolated human PC cultured on decellularized IPF lung matrices adopt expression of α-SMA, demonstrating that these cells undergo phenotypic transition in response to direct contact with the extracellular matrix (ECM) of the fibrotic human lung. Using potentially novel human lung–conjugated hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties, we decoupled PC responses to matrix composition and stiffness to show that α-SMA+ PC accumulate in a mechanosensitive manner independent of matrix composition. PC activated with TGF-β1 remodel the normal lung matrix, increasing tissue stiffness to facilitate the emergence of α-SMA+ PC via MKL-1/MTRFA mechanotranduction. Nintedanib, a tyrosine-kinase inhibitor approved for IPF treatment, restores the elastic modulus of fibrotic lung matrices to reverse the α-SMA+ phenotype. This work furthers our understanding of the role that microvascular PC play in the evolution of IPF, describes the creation of an ex vivo platform that advances the study of fibrosis, and presents a potentially novel mode of action for a commonly used antifibrotic therapy that has great relevance for human disease.
Parid Sava, Anand Ramanathan, Amelia Dobronyi, Xueyan Peng, Huanxing Sun, Adrian Ledesma-Mendoza, Erica L. Herzog, Anjelica L. Gonzalez
Infantile hemangioma (IH) is a vascular tumor that begins with rapid vascular proliferation shortly after birth, followed by vascular involution in early childhood. We have found that NOTCH3, a critical regulator of mural cell differentiation and maturation, is expressed in hemangioma stem cells (HemSCs), suggesting that NOTCH3 may function in HemSC-to–mural cell differentiation and pathological vessel stabilization. Here, we demonstrate that NOTCH3 is expressed in NG2+PDGFRβ+ perivascular HemSCs and CD31+GLUT1+ hemangioma endothelial cells (HemECs) in proliferating IHs and becomes mostly restricted to the αSMA+NG2loPDGFRβlo mural cells in involuting IHs. NOTCH3 knockdown in HemSCs inhibited in vitro mural cell differentiation and perturbed αSMA expression. In a mouse model of IH, NOTCH3 knockdown or systemic expression of the NOTCH3 inhibitor, NOTCH3 Decoy, significantly decreased IH blood flow, vessel caliber, and αSMA+ perivascular cell coverage. Thus, NOTCH3 is necessary for HemSC-to–mural cell differentiation, and adequate perivascular cell coverage of IH vessels is required for IH vessel stability.
Andrew K. Edwards, Kyle Glithero, Peter Grzesik, Alison A. Kitajewski, Naikhoba C.O. Munabi, Krista Hardy, Qian Kun Tan, Michael Schonning, Thaned Kangsamaksin, Jan K. Kitajewski, Carrie J. Shawber, June K. Wu
Vascular calcification is a risk factor that predicts adverse cardiovascular complications of several diseases including atherosclerosis. Reduced dietary potassium intake has been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and incidental stroke, although the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using the ApoE-deficient mouse model, we demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that reduced dietary potassium (0.3%) promoted atherosclerotic vascular calcification and increased aortic stiffness, compared with normal (0.7%) potassium–fed mice. In contrast, increased dietary potassium (2.1%) attenuated vascular calcification and aortic stiffness. Mechanistically, reduction in the potassium concentration to the lower limit of the physiological range increased intracellular calcium, which activated a cAMP response element–binding protein (CREB) signal that subsequently enhanced autophagy and promoted vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) calcification. Inhibition of calcium signals and knockdown of either CREB or ATG7, an autophagy regulator, attenuated VSMC calcification induced by low potassium. Consistently, elevated autophagy and CREB signaling were demonstrated in the calcified arteries from low potassium diet–fed mice as well as aortic arteries exposed to low potassium ex vivo. These studies established a potentially novel causative role of dietary potassium intake in regulating atherosclerotic vascular calcification and stiffness, and uncovered mechanisms that offer opportunities to develop therapeutic strategies to control vascular disease.
Yong Sun, Chang Hyun Byon, Youfeng Yang, Wayne E. Bradley, Louis J. Dell’Italia, Paul W. Sanders, Anupam Agarwal, Hui Wu, Yabing Chen
Fibrous cap smooth muscle cells (SMCs) protect atherosclerotic lesions from rupturing and causing thrombosis, while other plaque SMCs may have detrimental roles in plaque development. To gain insight into recruitment of different plaque SMCs, we mapped their clonal architecture in aggregation chimeras of eGFP+Apoe–/– and Apoe–/– mouse embryos and in mice with a mosaic expression of fluorescent proteins in medial SMCs that were rendered atherosclerotic by PCSK9-induced hypercholesterolemia. Fibrous caps in aggregation chimeras were found constructed from large, endothelial-aligned layers of either eGFP+ or nonfluorescent SMCs, indicating substantial clonal expansion of a few cells. Similarly, plaques in mice with SMC-restricted Confetti expression showed oligoclonal SMC populations with little intermixing between the progeny of different medial SMCs. Phenotypes comprised both ACTA2+ SMCs in the cap and heterogeneous ACTA2– SMCs in the plaque interior, including chondrocyte-like cells and cells with intracellular lipid and crystalline material. Fibrous cap SMCs were invariably arranged in endothelium-aligned clonal sheets, confirming results in the aggregation chimeras. Analysis of the clonal structure showed that a low number of local medial SMCs partake in atherosclerosis and that single medial SMCs can produce several different SMC phenotypes in plaque. The combined results show that few medial SMCs proliferate to form the entire phenotypically heterogeneous plaque SMC population in murine atherosclerosis.
Kevin Jacobsen, Marie Bek Lund, Jeong Shim, Stine Gunnersen, Ernst-Martin Füchtbauer, Mads Kjolby, Laura Carramolino, Jacob Fog Bentzon
Blood pressure is regulated by extrinsic factors including noradrenaline, the sympathetic neurotransmitter that controls cardiovascular functions through adrenergic receptors. However, the fine-tuning system of noradrenaline signaling is relatively unknown. We here show that l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA), a precursor of catecholamines, sensitizes the vascular adrenergic receptor alpha1 (ADRA1) through activation of L-DOPA receptor GPR143. In WT mice, intravenous infusion of the ADRA1 agonist phenylephrine induced a transient elevation of blood pressure. This response was attenuated in Gpr143 gene–deficient (Gpr143–/y) mice. Specific knockout of Gpr143 in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) also showed a similar phenotype, indicating that L-DOPA directly modulates ADRA1 signaling in the VSMCs. L-DOPA at nanomolar concentrations alone produced no effect on the VSMCs, but it enhanced phenylephrine-induced vasoconstriction and intracellular Ca2+ responses. Phenylephrine also augmented the phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinases in cultured VSMCs from WT but not Gpr143–/y mice. In WT mice, blood pressure increased during the transition from light-rest to dark-active phases. This elevation was not observed in Gpr143–/y mice. Taken together, our findings provide evidence for L-DOPA/GPR143 signaling that exerts precursor control of sympathetic neurotransmission through sensitizing vascular ADRA1.
Daiki Masukawa, Motokazu Koga, Anna Sezaki, Yuka Nakao, Yuji Kamikubo, Tatsuo Hashimoto, Yuki Okuyama-Oki, Aderemi Caleb Aladeokin, Fumio Nakamura, Utako Yokoyama, Hiromichi Wakui, Hiroshi Ichinose, Takashi Sakurai, Satoshi Umemura, Koichi Tamura, Yoshihiro Ishikawa, Yoshio Goshima
Clinical trials in patients with macular edema due to diabetic retinopathy or retinal vein occlusion (RVO) have shown that suppression of VEGF not only improves macular edema, but also reopens closed retinal vessels, prevents progression of vessel closure, and improves retinopathy. In this study, we show the molecular basis for those clinical observations. Increased retinal levels of VEGF in mice cause plugging of retinal vessels with leukocytes, vessel closure, and hypoxia. Suppression of VEGF reduces leukocyte plugging, causing reperfusion of closed vessels. Activation of VEGFR1 contributes to leukocyte recruitment, because it is significantly reduced by an anti-VEGFR1–neutralizing antibody. High VEGF increases transcriptional activity of NF-κB and expression of NF-κB target genes, particularly Vcam1. Injection of an anti-VCAM-1–neutralizing antibody reduces VEGF-induced leukocyte plugging. These data explain the broad range of benefits obtained by VEGF suppression in patients with ischemic retinopathies, provide an important insight into the pathogenesis of RVO and diabetic retinopathy, and suggest that sustained suppression of VEGF early in the course of these diseases may prevent vessel closure, worsening ischemia, and disease progression. This study also identifies VEGFR1 and VCAM-1 as molecular targets whose suppression could supplement VEGF neutralization for treatment of RVO and diabetic retinopathy.
Yuanyuan Liu, Jikui Shen, Seth D. Fortmann, Jiangxia Wang, Dietmar Vestweber, Peter A. Campochiaro
Transcriptionally activated monocytes are recruited to the heart after acute myocardial infarction (AMI). After AMI in mice and humans, the number of extracellular vesicles (EVs) increased acutely. In humans, EV number correlated closely with the extent of myocardial injury. We hypothesized that EVs mediate splenic monocyte mobilization and program transcription following AMI. Some plasma EVs bear endothelial cell (EC) integrins, and both proinflammatory stimulation of ECs and AMI significantly increased VCAM-1–positive EV release. Injected EC-EVs localized to the spleen and interacted with, and mobilized, splenic monocytes in otherwise naive, healthy animals. Analysis of human plasma EV-associated miRNA showed 12 markedly enriched miRNAs after AMI; functional enrichment analyses identified 1,869 putative mRNA targets, which regulate relevant cellular functions (e.g., proliferation and cell movement). Furthermore, gene ontology termed positive chemotaxis as the most enriched pathway for the miRNA-mRNA targets. Among the identified EV miRNAs, EC-associated miRNA-126-3p and -5p were highly regulated after AMI. miRNA-126-3p and -5p regulate cell adhesion– and chemotaxis-associated genes, including the negative regulator of cell motility, plexin-B2. EC-EV exposure significantly downregulated plexin-B2 mRNA in monocytes and upregulated motility integrin ITGB2. These findings identify EVs as a possible novel signaling pathway by linking ischemic myocardium with monocyte mobilization and transcriptional activation following AMI.
Naveed Akbar, Janet E. Digby, Thomas J. Cahill, Abhijeet N. Tavare, Alastair L. Corbin, Sushant Saluja, Sam Dawkins, Laurienne Edgar, Nadiia Rawlings, Klemen Ziberna, Eileen McNeill, Oxford Acute Myocardial Infarction (OxAMI) Study, Errin Johnson, Alaa A. Aljabali, Rebecca A. Dragovic, Mala Rohling, T. Grant Belgard, Irina A. Udalova, David R. Greaves, Keith M. Channon, Paul R. Riley, Daniel C. Anthony, Robin P. Choudhury
Lymphatic malformations are serious but poorly understood conditions that present therapeutic challenges. The goal of this study was to compare strategies for inducing regression of abnormal lymphatics and explore underlying mechanisms. CCSP-rtTA/tetO-VEGF-C mice, in which doxycycline regulates VEGF-C expression in the airway epithelium, were used as a model of pulmonary lymphangiectasia. After doxycycline was stopped, VEGF-C expression returned to normal, but lymphangiectasia persisted for at least 9 months. Inhibition of VEGFR-2/VEGFR-3 signaling, Notch, β-adrenergic receptors, or autophagy and antiinflammatory steroids had no noticeable effect on the amount or severity of lymphangiectasia. However, rapamycin inhibition of mTOR reduced lymphangiectasia by 76% within 7 days without affecting normal lymphatics. Efficacy of rapamycin was not increased by coadministration with the other agents. In prevention trials, rapamycin suppressed VEGF-C–driven mTOR phosphorylation and lymphatic endothelial cell sprouting and proliferation. However, in reversal trials, no lymphatic endothelial cell proliferation was present to block in established lymphangiectasia, and rapamycin did not increase caspase-dependent apoptosis. However, rapamycin potently suppressed Prox1 and VEGFR-3. These experiments revealed that lymphangiectasia is remarkably resistant to regression but is responsive to rapamycin, which rapidly reduces and normalizes the abnormal lymphatics without affecting normal lymphatics.
Peter Baluk, Li-Chin Yao, Julio C. Flores, Dongwon Choi, Young-Kwon Hong, Donald M. McDonald
BACKGROUND. Lack of investigatory and diagnostic tools has been a major contributing factor to the failure to mechanistically understand lymphedema and other lymphatic disorders in order to develop effective drug and surgical therapies. One difficulty has been understanding the true changes in lymph vessel pathology from standard 2D tissue sections. METHODS. VIPAR (volume information-based histopathological analysis by 3D reconstruction and data extraction), a light-sheet microscopy–based approach for the analysis of tissue biopsies, is based on digital reconstruction and visualization of microscopic image stacks. VIPAR allows semiautomated segmentation of the vasculature and subsequent nonbiased extraction of characteristic vessel shape and connectivity parameters. We applied VIPAR to analyze biopsies from healthy lymphedematous and lymphangiomatous skin. RESULTS. Digital 3D reconstruction provided a directly visually interpretable, comprehensive representation of the lymphatic and blood vessels in the analyzed tissue volumes. The most conspicuous features were disrupted lymphatic vessels in lymphedematous skin and a hyperplasia (4.36-fold lymphatic vessel volume increase) in the lymphangiomatous skin. Both abnormalities were detected by the connectivity analysis based on extracted vessel shape and structure data. The quantitative evaluation of extracted data revealed a significant reduction of lymphatic segment length (51.3% and 54.2%) and straightness (89.2% and 83.7%) for lymphedematous and lymphangiomatous skin, respectively. Blood vessel length was significantly increased in the lymphangiomatous sample (239.3%). CONCLUSION. VIPAR is a volume-based tissue reconstruction data extraction and analysis approach that successfully distinguished healthy from lymphedematous and lymphangiomatous skin. Its application is not limited to the vascular systems or skin. FUNDING. Max Planck Society, DFG (SFB 656), and Cells-in-Motion Cluster of Excellence EXC 1003.
René Hägerling, Dominik Drees, Aaron Scherzinger, Cathrin Dierkes, Silvia Martin-Almedina, Stefan Butz, Kristiana Gordon, Michael Schäfers, Klaus Hinrichs, Pia Ostergaard, Dietmar Vestweber, Tobias Goerge, Sahar Mansour, Xiaoyi Jiang, Peter S. Mortimer, Friedemann Kiefer
Atherosclerosis is considered both a metabolic and inflammatory disease; however, the specific tissue and signaling molecules that instigate and propagate this disease remain unclear. The liver is a central site of inflammation and lipid metabolism that is critical for atherosclerosis, and JAK2 is a key mediator of inflammation and, more recently, of hepatic lipid metabolism. However, precise effects of hepatic Jak2 on atherosclerosis remain unknown. We show here that hepatic Jak2 deficiency in atherosclerosis-prone mouse models exhibited accelerated atherosclerosis with increased plaque macrophages and decreased plaque smooth muscle cell content. JAK2’s essential role in growth hormone signalling in liver that resulted in reduced IGF-1 with hepatic Jak2 deficiency played a causal role in exacerbating atherosclerosis. As such, restoring IGF-1 either pharmacologically or genetically attenuated atherosclerotic burden. Together, our data show hepatic Jak2 to play a protective role in atherogenesis through actions mediated by circulating IGF-1 and, to our knowledge, provide a novel liver-centric mechanism in atheroprotection.
Tharini Sivasubramaniyam, Stephanie A. Schroer, Angela Li, Cynthia T. Luk, Sally Yu Shi, Rickvinder Besla, David W. Dodington, Adam H. Metherel, Alex P. Kitson, Jara J. Brunt, Joshua Lopes, Kay-Uwe Wagner, Richard P. Bazinet, Michelle P. Bendeck, Clinton S. Robbins, Minna Woo
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