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1.  Dexamethasone induces apoptosis in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells 
Respiratory Research  2015;16(1):114.
Dexamethasone suppressed inflammation and haemodynamic changes in an animal model of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). A major target for dexamethasone actions is NF-κB, which is activated in pulmonary vascular cells and perivascular inflammatory cells in PAH. Reverse remodelling is an important concept in PAH disease therapy, and further to its anti-proliferative effects, we sought to explore whether dexamethasone augments pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell (PASMC) apoptosis.
Analysis of apoptosis markers (caspase 3, in-situ DNA fragmentation) and NF-κB (p65 and phospho-IKK-α/β) activation was performed on lung tissue from rats with monocrotaline (MCT)-induced pulmonary hypertension (PH), before and after day 14–28 treatment with dexamethasone (5 mg/kg/day). PASMC were cultured from this rat PH model and from normal human lung following lung cancer surgery. Following stimulation with TNF-α (10 ng/ml), the effects of dexamethasone (10−8–10−6 M) and IKK2 (NF-κB) inhibition (AS602868, 0–3 μM (0-3×10−6 M) on IL-6 and CXCL8 release and apoptosis was determined by ELISA and by Hoechst staining. NF-κB activation was measured by TransAm assay.
Dexamethasone treatment of rats with MCT-induced PH in vivo led to PASMC apoptosis as displayed by increased caspase 3 expression and DNA fragmentation. A similar effect was seen in vitro using TNF-α-simulated human and rat PASMC following both dexamethasone and IKK2 inhibition. Increased apoptosis was associated with a reduction in NF-κB activation and in IL-6 and CXCL8 release from PASMC.
Dexamethasone exerted reverse-remodelling effects by augmenting apoptosis and reversing inflammation in PASMC possibly via inhibition of NF-κB. Future PAH therapies may involve targeting these important inflammatory pathways.
PMCID: PMC4574531  PMID: 26382031
2.  Inflammation and Immunity in the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Circulation research  2014;115(1):165-175.
This review summarizes an expanding body of knowledge indicating that failure to resolve inflammation and altered immune processes underlie the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension. The chemokines and cytokines implicated in pulmonary arterial hypertension that could form a biomarker platform are discussed. Pre-clinical studies that provide the basis for dysregulated immunity in animal models of the disease are reviewed. In addition we present therapies that target inflammatory/immune mechanisms that are currently enrolling patients and discuss others in development. We show how genetic and metabolic abnormalities are inextricably linked to dysregulated immunity and adverse remodeling in the pulmonary arteries.
PMCID: PMC4097142  PMID: 24951765
Tertiary lymphoid follicle; Macrophage and macrophage migration inhibitory factor; Elastase; Leukotriene B4; Pulmonary hypertension
3.  An Official American Thoracic Society Statement: Pulmonary Hypertension Phenotypes 
Background: Current classification of pulmonary hypertension (PH) is based on a relatively simple combination of patient characteristics and hemodynamics. This limits customization of treatment, and lacks the clarity of a more granular identification based on individual patient phenotypes. Rapid advances in mechanistic understanding of the disease, improved imaging methods, and innovative biomarkers now provide an opportunity to define PH phenotypes on the basis of biomarkers, advanced imaging, and pathobiology. This document organizes our current understanding of PH phenotypes and identifies gaps in our knowledge.
Methods: A multidisciplinary committee with expertise in clinical care (pulmonary, cardiology, pediatrics, and pathology), clinical research, and/or basic science in the areas of PH identified important questions and reviewed and synthesized the literature.
Results: This document describes selected PH phenotypes and serves as an initial platform to define additional relevant phenotypes as new knowledge is generated. The biggest gaps in our knowledge stem from the fact that our present understanding of PH phenotypes has not come from any particularly organized effort to identify such phenotypes, but rather from reinterpreting studies and reports that were designed and performed for other purposes.
Conclusions: Accurate phenotyping of PH can be used in research studies to increase the homogeneity of study cohorts. Once the ability of the phenotypes to predict outcomes has been validated, phenotyping may also be useful for determining prognosis and guiding treatment. This important next step in PH patient care can optimally be addressed through a consortium of study sites with well-defined goals, tasks, and structure. Planning and support for this could include the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with industry and foundation partnerships.
PMCID: PMC4291177  PMID: 24484330
biomarkers; consortium; metabolism; pathobiology; pulmonary circulation
4.  Recommendations for Screening and Detection of Connective-Tissue Disease Associated Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(12):10.1002/art.38172.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) affects up to 15% of patients with connective tissue diseases (CTD). Previous recommendations developed as part of larger efforts in PAH did not provide detailed recommendations for patients with CTD-PAH. Therefore, we sought to develop recommendations for screening and early detection of CTD-PAH.
We performed a systematic review for the screening and diagnosis of PAH in CTD by searching the literature. Using the RAND/UCLA methodology, we developed case scenarios followed by 2 stages of voting—first international experts from a variety of specialties voted anonymously on the appropriateness of each case scenario and then the experts met in a face-to-face meeting to discuss and resolve discrepant votes to arrive at consensus recommendations.
The key recommendations state that patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) should be screened for PAH. In addition, mixed connective tissue diseases (MCTD) or other CTD’s with scleroderma features should also be screened for PAH (scleroderma-spectrum disorder). Initial screening evaluation in patients with SSc and scleroderma-spectrum disorders include pulmonary function test (PFT) including diffusion capacity carbon monoxide (DLCO), transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), and NT- Pro BNP. In SSc and spectrum disorders, TTE and PFT should be performed on annual basis. The full screening panel (TTE, PFT, and NT-ProBNP) should be performed as soon as any new signs or symptoms are present.
We provide consensus-based, evidence-driven recommendations for screening and early detection of CTD-PAH. It is our hope that these recommendations will lead to earlier detection of CTD-PAH and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3883571  PMID: 24022584
Pulmonary hypertension; pulmonary arterial hypertension; connective tissue diseases; systemic sclerosis; recommendations; guidelines
5.  Systematic Analysis of Blood Cell Transcriptome in End-Stage Chronic Respiratory Diseases 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109291.
End-stage chronic respiratory diseases (CRD) have systemic consequences, such as weight loss and susceptibility to infection. However the mechanisms of such dysfunctions are as yet poorly explained. We hypothesized that the genes putatively involved in these mechanisms would emerge from a systematic analysis of blood mRNA profiles from pre-transplant patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), pulmonary hypertension (PAH), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Whole blood was first collected from 13 patients with PAH, 23 patients with CF, and 28 Healthy Controls (HC). Microarray results were validated by quantitative PCR on a second and independent group (7PAH, 9CF, and 11HC). Twelve pre-transplant COPD patients were added to validate the common signature shared by patients with CRD for all causes. To further clarify a role for hypoxia in the candidate gene dysregulation, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HC were analysed for their mRNA profile under hypoxia.
Unsupervised hierarchical clustering allowed the identification of 3 gene signatures related to CRD. One was common to CF and PAH, another specific to CF, and the final one was specific to PAH. With the common signature, we validated T-Cell Factor 7 (TCF-7) and Interleukin 7 Receptor (IL-7R), two genes related to T lymphocyte activation, as being under-expressed. We showed a strong impact of the hypoxia on modulation of TCF-7 and IL-7R expression in PBMCs from HC under hypoxia or PBMCs from CRD. In addition, we identified and validated genes upregulated in PAH or CF, including Lectin Galactoside-binding Soluble 3 and Toll Like Receptor 4, respectively.
Systematic analysis of blood cell transcriptome in CRD patients identified common and specific signatures relevant to the systemic pathologies. TCF-7 and IL-7R were downregulated whatever the cause of CRD and this could play a role in the higher susceptibility to infection of these patients.
PMCID: PMC4203719  PMID: 25329529
6.  Therapeutic Efficacy of AAV1.SERCA2a in Monocrotaline-Induced Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Circulation  2013;128(5):512-523.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by dysregulated proliferation of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells leading to (mal)adaptive vascular remodeling. In the systemic circulation, vascular injury is associated with downregulation of sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase 2a (SERCA2a) and alterations in Ca2+ homeostasis in vascular smooth muscle cells that stimulate proliferation. We, therefore, hypothesized that downregulation of SERCA2a is permissive for pulmonary vascular remodeling and the development of PAH.
Methods and Results
SERCA2a expression was decreased significantly in remodeled pulmonary arteries from patients with PAH and the rat monocrotaline model of PAH in comparison with controls. In human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells in vitro, SERCA2a overexpression by gene transfer decreased proliferation and migration significantly by inhibiting NFAT/STAT3. Overexpresion of SERCA2a in human pulmonary artery endothelial cells in vitro increased endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression and activation. In monocrotaline rats with established PAH, gene transfer of SERCA2a via intratracheal delivery of aerosolized adeno-associated virus serotype 1 (AAV1) carrying the human SERCA2a gene (AAV1.SERCA2a) decreased pulmonary artery pressure, vascular remodeling, right ventricular hypertrophy, and fibrosis in comparison with monocrotaline-PAH rats treated with a control AAV1 carrying β-galactosidase or saline. In a prevention protocol, aerosolized AAV1.SERCA2a delivered at the time of monocrotaline administration limited adverse hemodynamic profiles and indices of pulmonary and cardiac remodeling in comparison with rats administered AAV1 carrying β-galactosidase or saline.
Downregulation of SERCA2a plays a critical role in modulating the vascular and right ventricular pathophenotype associated with PAH. Selective pulmonary SERCA2a gene transfer may offer benefit as a therapeutic intervention in PAH.
PMCID: PMC3908449  PMID: 23804254
calcium; gene therapy; heart failure; muscle, smooth; pulmonary hypertension; ventricular remodeling
7.  Key Role of the Endothelial TGF-β/ALK1/Endoglin Signaling Pathway in Humans and Rodents Pulmonary Hypertension 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100310.
Mutations affecting transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) superfamily receptors, activin receptor-like kinase (ALK)-1, and endoglin (ENG) occur in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). To determine whether the TGF-β/ALK1/ENG pathway was involved in PAH, we investigated pulmonary TGF-β, ALK1, ALK5, and ENG expressions in human lung tissue and cultured pulmonary-artery smooth-muscle-cells (PA-SMCs) and pulmonary endothelial cells (PECs) from 14 patients with idiopathic PAH (iPAH) and 15 controls. Seeing that ENG was highly expressed in PEC, we assessed the effects of TGF-β on Smad1/5/8 and Smad2/3 activation and on growth factor production by the cells. Finally, we studied the consequence of ENG deficiency on the chronic hypoxic-PH development by measuring right ventricular (RV) systolic pressure (RVSP), RV hypertrophy, and pulmonary arteriolar remodeling in ENG-deficient (Eng+/−) and wild-type (Eng+/+) mice. We also evaluated the pulmonary blood vessel density, macrophage infiltration, and cytokine expression in the lungs of the animals. Compared to controls, iPAH patients had higher serum and pulmonary TGF-β levels and increased ALK1 and ENG expressions in lung tissue, predominantly in PECs. Incubation of the cells with TGF-β led to Smad1/5/8 phosphorylation and to a production of FGF2, PDGFb and endothelin-inducing PA-SMC growth. Endoglin deficiency protected mice from hypoxic PH. As compared to wild-type, Eng+/− mice had a lower pulmonary vessel density, and no change in macrophage infiltration after exposure to chronic hypoxia despite the higher pulmonary expressions of interleukin-6 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. The TGF-β/ALK1/ENG signaling pathway plays a key role in iPAH and experimental hypoxic PH via a direct effect on PECs leading to production of growth factors and inflammatory cytokines involved in the pathogenesis of PAH.
PMCID: PMC4067299  PMID: 24956016
8.  N-acetylcysteine improves established monocrotaline-induced pulmonary hypertension in rats 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):65.
The outcome of patients suffering from pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) are predominantly determined by the response of the right ventricle to the increase afterload secondary to high vascular pulmonary resistance. However, little is known about the effects of the current available or experimental PAH treatments on the heart. Recently, inflammation has been implicated in the pathophysiology of PAH. N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a well-known safe anti-oxidant drug, has immuno-modulatory and cardioprotective properties. We therefore hypothesized that NAC could reduce the severity of pulmonary hypertension (PH) in rats exposed to monocrotaline (MCT), lowering inflammation and preserving pulmonary vascular system and right heart function.
Saline-treated control, MCT-exposed, MCT-exposed and NAC treated rats (day 14–28) were evaluated at day 28 following MCT for hemodynamic parameters (right ventricular systolic pressure, mean pulmonary arterial pressure and cardiac output), right ventricular hypertrophy, pulmonary vascular morphometry, lung inflammatory cells immunohistochemistry (monocyte/macrophages and dendritic cells), IL-6 expression, cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and cardiac fibrosis.
The treatment with NAC significantly decreased pulmonary vascular remodeling, lung inflammation, and improved total pulmonary resistance (from 0.71 ± 0.05 for MCT group to 0.50 ± 0.06 for MCT + NAC group, p < 0.05). Right ventricular function was also improved with NAC treatment associated with a significant decrease in cardiomyocyte hypertrophy (625 ± 69 vs. 439 ± 21 μm2 for MCT and MCT + NAC group respectively, p < 0.001) and heart fibrosis (14.1 ± 0.8 vs. 8.8 ± 0.1% for MCT and MCT + NAC group respectively, p < 0.001).
Through its immuno-modulatory and cardioprotective properties, NAC has beneficial effect on pulmonary vascular and right heart function in experimental PH.
PMCID: PMC4065537  PMID: 24929652
Pulmonary hypertension; Immunomodulation; Inflammation; Right heart function; N-acetylcysteine
9.  Protein Changes Contributing to Right Ventricular Cardiomyocyte Diastolic Dysfunction in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Right ventricular (RV) diastolic function is impaired in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Our previous study showed that elevated cardiomyocyte stiffness and myofilament Ca2+ sensitivity underlie diastolic dysfunction in PAH. This study investigates protein modifications contributing to cellular diastolic dysfunction in PAH.
Methods and Results
RV samples from PAH patients undergoing heart‐lung transplantation were compared to non‐failing donors (Don). Titin stiffness contribution to RV diastolic dysfunction was determined by Western‐blot analyses using antibodies to protein‐kinase‐A (PKA), Cα (PKCα) and Ca2+/calmoduling‐dependent‐kinase (CamKIIδ) titin and phospholamban (PLN) phosphorylation sites: N2B (Ser469), PEVK (Ser170 and Ser26), and PLN (Thr17), respectively. PKA and PKCα sites were significantly less phosphorylated in PAH compared with donors (P<0.0001). To test the functional relevance of PKA‐, PKCα‐, and CamKIIδ‐mediated titin phosphorylation, we measured the stiffness of single RV cardiomyocytes before and after kinase incubation. PKA significantly decreased PAH RV cardiomyocyte diastolic stiffness, PKCα further increased stiffness while CamKIIδ had no major effect. CamKIIδ activation was determined indirectly by measuring PLN Thr17phosphorylation level. No significant changes were found between the groups. Myofilament Ca2+ sensitivity is mediated by sarcomeric troponin I (cTnI) phosphorylation. We observed increased unphosphorylated cTnI in PAH compared with donors (P<0.05) and reduced PKA‐mediated cTnI phosphorylation (Ser22/23) (P<0.001). Finally, alterations in Ca2+‐handling proteins contribute to RV diastolic dysfunction due to insufficient diastolic Ca2+ clearance. PAH SERCA2a levels and PLN phosphorylation were significantly reduced compared with donors (P<0.05).
Increased titin stiffness, reduced cTnI phosphorylation, and altered levels of phosphorylation of Ca2+ handling proteins contribute to RV diastolic dysfunction in PAH.
PMCID: PMC4309054  PMID: 24895160
diastole; pulmonary heart disease
10.  Evidence for the Involvement of Type I Interferon in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Circulation research  2013;114(4):677-688.
Evidence is increasing of a link between interferon (IFN) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Conditions with chronically elevated endogenous IFNs such as systemic sclerosis are strongly associated with PAH. Furthermore, therapeutic use of type I IFN is associated with PAH. This was recognized at the 2013 World Symposium on Pulmonary Hypertension where the urgent need for research into this was highlighted.
To explore the role of type I IFN in PAH.
Methods and Results
Cells were cultured using standard approaches. Cytokines were measured by ELISA. Gene and protein expression were measured using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry. The role of type I IFN in PAH in vivo was determined using type I IFN receptor knockout (IFNAR1−/−) mice. Human lung cells responded to types I and II but not III IFN correlating with relevant receptor expression. Type I, II, and III IFN levels were elevated in serum of patients with systemic sclerosis associated PAH. Serum interferon γ inducible protein 10 (IP10; CXCL10) and endothelin 1 were raised and strongly correlated together. IP10 correlated positively with pulmonary hemodynamics and serum brain natriuretic peptide and negatively with 6-minute walk test and cardiac index. Endothelial cells grown out of the blood of PAH patients were more sensitive to the effects of type I IFN than cells from healthy donors. PAH lung demonstrated increased IFNAR1 protein levels. IFNAR1−/− mice were protected from the effects of hypoxia on the right heart, vascular remodeling, and raised serum endothelin 1 levels.
These data indicate that type I IFN, via an action of IFNAR1, mediates PAH.
PMCID: PMC4006084  PMID: 24334027
chemokine CXCL10; endothelin-1; IFNAR1 subunit, interferon alpha-beta receptor; inflammation; interferon type I; pulmonary arterial hypertension; scleroderma, systemic
11.  Genome-wide association analysis identifies a susceptibility locus for pulmonary arterial hypertension 
Nature genetics  2013;45(5):518-521.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a rare and devastating disease, resulting from progressive obliteration of small caliber pulmonary arteries by proliferating vascular cells, and leading to cardiac failure, with an untreated mean survival of less than three years 1,2. PAH can complicate other pathological conditions, or can occur in the context of genetic mutations causing heritable PAH, or can be considered as idiopathic (iPAH), which represents approximately 40% of all PAH 3,4. Low penetrance dominant BMPR2 mutations are found in ~70% of familial PAH (fPAH), and in ~15% of iPAH which are thereafter considered as heritable PAH 5,6. We conducted a Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) based on two independent case-control studies for iPAH and fPAH (without BMPR2 mutations) totaling 625 patients and 1,525 healthy individuals, to identify novel genetic factors associated with iPAH and fPAH (i/fPAH) in the absence of BMPR2 mutations. A genome wide significant association was detected at the CBLN2 locus mapping to 18q22.3, the risk allele being associated with an odds ratio for i/fPAH of 1.97 [1.59 – 2.45] (P = 7.47 x 10−10). CBLN2 is expressed in the lung, particularly in pulmonary vascular endothelial cells, and its expression is increased in explanted lungs from PAH patients and in endothelial cells cultured from explanted PAH lungs.
PMCID: PMC3983781  PMID: 23502781
12.  A Novel Channelopathy in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;369(4):351-361.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a devastating disease with high mortality. Familial cases of pulmonary arterial hypertension are usually characterized by autosomal dominant transmission with reduced penetrance, and some familial cases have unknown genetic causes.
We studied a family in which multiple members had pulmonary arterial hypertension without identifiable mutations in any of the genes known to be associated with the disease, including BMPR2, ALK1, ENG, SMAD9, and CAV1. Three family members were studied with whole-exome sequencing. Additional patients with familial or idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension were screened for the mutations in the gene that was identified on whole-exome sequencing. All variants were expressed in COS-7 cells, and channel function was studied by means of patch-clamp analysis.
We identified a novel heterozygous missense variant c.608 G→A (G203D) in KCNK3 (the gene encoding potassium channel subfamily K, member 3) as a disease-causing candidate gene in the family. Five additional heterozygous missense variants in KCNK3 were independently identified in 92 unrelated patients with familial pulmonary arterial hypertension and 230 patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. We used in silico bioinformatic tools to predict that all six novel variants would be damaging. Electrophysiological studies of the channel indicated that all these missense mutations resulted in loss of function, and the reduction in the potassium-channel current was remedied by the application of the phospholipase inhibitor ONO-RS-082.
Our study identified the association of a novel gene, KCNK3, with familial and idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. Mutations in this gene produced reduced potassium-channel current, which was successfully remedied by pharmacologic manipulation. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.)
PMCID: PMC3792227  PMID: 23883380
13.  The Beneficial Effect of Suramin on Monocrotaline-Induced Pulmonary Hypertension in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77073.
Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a progressive disorder characterized by an increase in pulmonary artery pressure and structural changes in the pulmonary vasculature. Several observations indicate that growth factors play a key role in PH by modulating pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (PA-SMC) function. In rats, established monocrotaline-induced PH (MCT-PH) can be reversed by blocking platelet-derived growth factor receptors (PDGF-R), epidermal growth factor receptors (EGF-R), or fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGF-R). All these receptors belong to the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) family.
Methods and Results
We evaluated whether RTK blockade by the nonspecific growth factor inhibitor, suramin, reversed advanced MCT-PH in rats via its effects on growth-factor signaling pathways. We found that suramin inhibited RTK and ERK1/2 phosphorylation in cultured human PA-SMCs. Suramin inhibited PA-SMC proliferation induced by serum, PDGF, FGF2, or EGF in vitro and ex vivo. Treatment with suramin from day 1 to day 21 after monocrotaline injection attenuated PH development, as shown by lower values for pulmonary artery pressure, right ventricular hypertrophy, and distal vessel muscularization on day 21 compared to control rats. Treatment with suramin from day 21 to day 42 after monocrotaline injection reversed established PH, thereby normalizing the pulmonary artery pressure values and vessel structure. Suramin treatment suppressed PA-SMC proliferation and attenuated both the inflammatory response and the deposition of collagen.
RTK blockade by suramin can prevent MCT-PH and reverse established MCT-PH in rats. This study suggests that an anti-RTK strategy that targets multiple RTKs could be useful in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3797142  PMID: 24143201
14.  Nuclear Factor κ-B Is Activated in the Pulmonary Vessels of Patients with End-Stage Idiopathic Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75415.
To assess activation of the inflammatory transcription factor NF-kappa B (NF-κB) in human idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
Idiopathic PAH is a severe progressive disease characterized by pulmonary vascular remodeling and excessive proliferation of vascular cells. Increasing evidence indicates that inflammation is important in disease pathophysiology.
NF-κB-p65 and CD68, CD20 and CD45 were measured by immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy on lung specimens from patients with idiopathic PAH (n = 12) and controls undergoing lung surgery (n = 14). Clinical data were recorded for all patients including invasive pulmonary hemodynamics for the PAH patients. Immunohistochemical images were analyzed by blinded observers to include standard pulmonary vascular morphometry; absolute macrophage counts/mm2 and p65-positivity (p65+) using composite images and image-analysis software; and cytoplasmic:nuclear p65+ of individual pulmonary arterial endothelial and smooth muscle cells (PASMC) in 10–20 pulmonary arteries or arterioles per subject. The expression of ET-1 and CCL5 (RANTES) in whole lung was determined by RT-qPCR.
Macrophage numbers were increased in idiopathic PAH versus controls (49.0±4.5 vs. 7.95±1.9 macrophages/100 mm2, p<0.0001): these macrophages demonstrated more nuclear p65+ than in macrophages from controls (16.9±2.49 vs. 3.5±1.25%, p<0.001). An increase in p65+ was also seen in perivascular lymphocytes in patients with PAH. Furthermore, NF-κB activation was increased in pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (62.3±2.9 vs. 14.4±3.8, p<0.0001) and PASMC (22.6±2.3 vs. 11.2±2.0, p<0.001) in patients with PAH versus controls, with similar findings in arterioles. Gene expression of both ET-1 mRNA ((0.213±0.069 vs. 1.06±0.23, p<0.01) and CCL5 (RANTES) (0.16±0.045 vs. 0.26±0.039, p<0.05) was increased in whole lung homogenates from patients with PAH.
NF-κB is activated in pulmonary macrophages, lymphocytes, endothelial and PASMC in patients with end-stage idiopathic PAH. Future research should determine whether NF-κB activation is a driver or bystander of pulmonary vascular inflammation and if the former, its potential role as a therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC3790752  PMID: 24124488
15.  Pulmonary arterial hypertension 
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a chronic and progressive disease leading to right heart failure and ultimately death if untreated. The first classification of PH was proposed in 1973. In 2008, the fourth World Symposium on PH held in Dana Point (California, USA) revised previous classifications. Currently, PH is devided into five subgroups. Group 1 includes patients suffering from idiopathic or familial PAH with or without germline mutations. Patients with a diagnosis of PAH should systematically been screened regarding to underlying mutations of BMPR2 gene (bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 2) or more rarely of ACVRL1 (activine receptor-like kinase type 1), ENG (endogline) or Smad8 genes. Pulmonary veno occusive disease and pulmonary capillary hemagiomatosis are individualized and designated as clinical group 1'. Group 2 'Pulmonary hypertension due to left heart diseases' is divided into three sub-groups: systolic dysfonction, diastolic dysfonction and valvular dysfonction. Group 3 'Pulmonary hypertension due to respiratory diseases' includes a heterogenous subgroup of respiratory diseases like PH due to pulmonary fibrosis, COPD, lung emphysema or interstitial lung disease for exemple. Group 4 includes chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension without any distinction of proximal or distal forms. Group 5 regroup PH patients with unclear multifactorial mechanisms. Invasive hemodynamic assessment with right heart catheterization is requested to confirm the definite diagnosis of PH showing a resting mean pulmonary artery pressure (mPAP) of ≥ 25 mmHg and a normal pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (PCWP) of ≤ 15 mmHg. The assessment of PCWP may allow the distinction between pre-capillary and post-capillary PH (PCWP > 15 mmHg). Echocardiography is an important tool in the management of patients with underlying suspicion of PH. The European Society of Cardiology and the European Respiratory Society (ESC-ERS) guidelines specify its role, essentially in the screening proposing criteria for estimating the presence of PH mainly based on tricuspid regurgitation peak velocity and systolic artery pressure (sPAP). The therapy of PAH consists of non-specific drugs including oral anticoagulation and diuretics as well as PAH specific therapy. Diuretics are one of the most important treatment in the setting of PH because right heart failure leads to fluid retention, hepatic congestion, ascites and peripheral edema. Current recommendations propose oral anticoagulation aiming for targeting an International Normalized Ratio (INR) between 1.5-2.5. Target INR for patients displaying chronic thromboembolic PH is between 2–3. Better understanding in pathophysiological mechanisms of PH over the past quarter of a century has led to the development of medical therapeutics, even though no cure for PAH exists. Several specific therapeutic agents were developed for the medical management of PAH including prostanoids (epoprostenol, trepoprostenil, iloprost), endothelin receptor antagonists (bosentan, ambrisentan) and phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (sildenafil, tadalafil). This review discusses the current state of art regarding to epidemiologic aspects of PH, diagnostic approaches and the current classification of PH. In addition, currently available specific PAH therapy is discussed as well as future treatments.
PMCID: PMC3750932  PMID: 23829793
16.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus nef Signature Sequences Are Associated with Pulmonary Hypertension 
Severe pulmonary hypertension (PH) associated with vascular remodeling is a long-term complication of HIV infection (HIV-PH) affecting 1/200 infected individuals vs. 1/200,000 frequency in the uninfected population. Factors accounting for increased PH susceptibility in HIV-infected individuals are unknown. Rhesus macaques infected with chimeric SHIVnef virions but not with SIV display PH-like pulmonary vascular remodeling suggesting that HIV-Nef is associated with PH; these monkeys showed changes in nef sequences that correlated with pathogenesis after passage in vivo. We further examined whether HIV-nef alleles in HIV-PH subjects have signature sequences associated with the disease phenotype. We evaluated specimens from participants with and without HIV-PH from European Registries and validated results with samples collected as part of the Lung-HIV Studies in San Francisco. We found that 10 polymorphisms in nef were overrepresented in blood cells or lung tissue specimens from European HIV-PH individuals but significantly less frequent in HIV-infected individuals without PH. These polymorphisms mapped to known functional domains in Nef. In the validation cohort, 7/10 polymorphisms in the HIV-nef gene were confirmed; these polymorphisms arose independently from viral load, CD4+ T cell counts, length of infection, and antiretroviral therapy status. Two out of 10 polymorphisms were previously reported in macaques with PH-like pulmonary vascular remodeling. Cloned recombinant Nef proteins from clinical samples down-regulated CD4, suggesting that these primary isolates are functional. This study offers new insights into the association between Nef polymorphisms in functional domains and the HIV-PH phenotype. The utility of these polymorphisms as predictors of PH should be examined in a larger population.
PMCID: PMC3358101  PMID: 22066947
17.  Temporal Asthma Patterns Using Repeated Questionnaires over 13 Years in a Large French Cohort of Women 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e65090.
Variable expression is one aspect of the heterogeneity of asthma. We aimed to define a variable pattern, which is relevant in general health epidemiological cohorts. Our objectives were to assess whether: 1) asthma patterns defined using simple asthma questions through repeated measurements could reflect disease variability 2) these patterns may further be classified according to asthma severity/control. Among 70,428 French women, we used seven questionnaires (1992–2005) and a comprehensive reimbursement database (2004–2009) to define three reliable asthma patterns based on repeated positive answers to the ever asthma attack question: “never asthma” (n = 64,061); “inconsistent” (“yes” followed by “no”, n = 3,514); “consistent” (fully consistent positive answers, n = 2,853). The “Inconsistent” pattern was related to both long-term (childhood-onset asthma with remission in adulthood) and short-term (reported asthma attack in the last 12 months, associated with asthma medication) asthma variability, showing that repeated questions are relevant markers of the variable expression of asthma. Furthermore, in this pattern, the number of positive responses (1992–2005) predicted asthma drug consumption in subsequent years, a marker of disease severity. The “Inconsistent” pattern is a phenotype that may capture the variable expression of asthma. Repeated answers, even to a simple question, are too often neglected.
PMCID: PMC3669014  PMID: 23741466
19.  Copper Dependence of Angioproliferation in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in Rats and Humans 
Obliteration of the vascular lumen by endothelial cell growth is a hallmark of many forms of severe pulmonary arterial hypertension. Copper plays a significant role in the control of endothelial cell proliferation in cancer and wound-healing. We sought to determine whether angioproliferation in rats with experimental pulmonary arterial hypertension and pulmonary microvascular endothelial cell proliferation in humans depend on the proangiogenic action of copper. A copper-depleted diet prevented, and copper chelation with tetrathiomolybdate reversed, the development of severe experimental pulmonary arterial hypertension. The copper chelation–induced reopening of obliterated vessels was caused by caspase-independent apoptosis, reduced vessel wall cell proliferation, and a normalization of vessel wall structure. No evidence was found for a role of super oxide–1 inhibition or lysyl–oxidase–1 inhibition in the reversal of angioproliferation. Tetrathiomolybdate inhibited the proliferation of human pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells, isolated from explanted lungs from control subjects and patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension. These data suggest that the inhibition of endothelial cell proliferation by a copper-restricting strategy could be explored as a new therapeutic approach in pulmonary arterial hypertension. It remains to be determined, however, whether potential toxicity to the right ventricle is offset by the beneficial pulmonary vascular effects of antiangiogenic treatment in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3361355  PMID: 22162909
pulmonary hypertension; copper; angiogenesis; tetrathiomolybdate
20.  Systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary hypertension: why disease-specific composite endpoints are needed 
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a serious complication of systemic sclerosis (SSc). In clinical trials PAH-SSc has been grouped with other forms, including idiopathic PAH. The primary endpoint for most pivotal studies was improvement in exercise capacity. However, composite clinical endpoints that better reflect long-term outcome may be more meaningful. We discuss potential endpoints and consider why the same measures may not be appropriate for both idiopathic PAH and PAH-SSc due to inherent differences in clinical outcome and management strategies of these two forms of PAH. Failure to take this into account may compromise progress in managing PAH in SSc.
PMCID: PMC3218892  PMID: 21699746
21.  Strategic Plan for Lung Vascular Research 
The Division of Lung Diseases of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, with the Office of Rare Diseases Research, held a workshop to identify priority areas and strategic goals to enhance and accelerate research that will result in improved understanding of the lung vasculature, translational research needs, and ultimately the care of patients with pulmonary vascular diseases. Multidisciplinary experts with diverse experience in laboratory, translational, and clinical studies identified seven priority areas and discussed limitations in our current knowledge, technologies, and approaches. The focus for future research efforts include the following: (1) better characterizing vascular genotype–phenotype relationships and incorporating systems biology approaches when appropriate; (2) advancing our understanding of pulmonary vascular metabolic regulatory signaling in health and disease; (3) expanding our knowledge of the biologic relationships between the lung circulation and circulating elements, systemic vascular function, and right heart function and disease; (4) improving translational research for identifying disease-modifying therapies for the pulmonary hypertensive diseases; (5) establishing an appropriate and effective platform for advancing translational findings into clinical studies testing; and (6) developing the specific technologies and tools that will be enabling for these goals, such as question-guided imaging techniques and lung vascular investigator training programs. Recommendations from this workshop will be used within the Lung Vascular Biology and Disease Extramural Research Program for planning and strategic implementation purposes.
PMCID: PMC3029941  PMID: 20833821
right ventricle; pulmonary hypertension; metabolism; genomics; phenotyping
22.  Increased oxidative stress and severe arterial remodeling induced by permanent high-flow challenge in experimental pulmonary hypertension 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):119.
Involvement of inflammation in pulmonary hypertension (PH) has previously been demonstrated and recently, immune-modulating dendritic cells (DCs) infiltrating arterial lesions in patients suffering from idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) and in experimental monocrotaline-induced PH have been reported. Occurrence of perivascular inflammatory cells could be linked to local increase of oxidative stress (OS), as it has been shown for systemic atherosclerosis. The impact of OS on vascular remodeling in PH is still to be determined. We hypothesized, that augmented blood-flow could increase OS and might thereby contribute to DC/inflammatory cell-recruitment and smooth-muscle-cell-proliferation.
We applied a monocrotaline-induced PH-model and combined it with permanent flow-challenge. Thirty Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned to following groups: control, monocrotaline-exposure (MCT), monocrotaline-exposure/pneumonectomy (MCT/PE).
Hemodynamic exploration demonstrated most severe effects in MCT/PE, corresponding in histology to exuberant medial and adventitial remodeling of pulmonary muscular arteries, and intimal remodeling of smaller arterioles; lung-tissue PCR evidenced increased expression of DCs-specific fascin, CD68, proinflammatory cytokines (IL-6, RANTES, fractalkine) in MCT/PE and to a lesser extent in MCT. Major OS enzyme NOX-4 was maximal in MCT/PE. Antioxidative stress enzymes Mn-SOD and glutathion-peroxidase-1 were significantly elevated, while HO-1 showed maximal expression in MCT with significant decrease in MCT/PE. Catalase was decreased in MCT and MCT/PE. Expression of NOX-4, but also of MN-SOD in MCT/PE was mainly attributed to a highly increased number of interstitial and perivascular CXCR4/SDF1 pathway-recruited mast-cells. Stress markers malonedialdehyde and nitrotyrosine were produced in endothelial cells, medial smooth muscle and perivascular leucocytes of hypertensive vasculature. Immunolabeling for OX62, CD68 and actin revealed adventitial and medial DC- and monocyte-infiltration; in MCT/PE, medial smooth muscle cells were admixed with CD68+/vimentin+ cells.
Our experimental findings support a new concept of immunologic responses to increased OS in MCT/PE-induced PAH, possibly linking recruitment of dendritic cells and OS-producing mast-cells to characteristic vasculopathy.
PMCID: PMC3189121  PMID: 21906276
23.  Systemic Sclerosis-associated Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a devastating vascular complication of a number of connective tissue diseases, including systemic sclerosis (SSc), where it has a dramatic impact on the clinical course and overall survival and is the single most common cause of death in patients afflicted with this syndrome. Although remarkable advances have been achieved in elucidating the pathogenesis of PAH over the past 2 decades, leading to the development of disease-targeted therapies for the idiopathic form of this condition (IPAH), the response to therapy is suboptimal in SSc-related PAH (SSc-PAH), and survival remains very poor. Factors accounting for striking clinical and prognostic differences between these two syndromes are unclear but may include a more pronounced autoimmune, cellular, and inflammatory response, and a higher prevalence of comorbidities in SSc-PAH, including cardiac and pulmonary venous and parenchymal involvement. Furthermore, currently available markers of disease severity and clinical tools to assess response to therapy, which may be reliable in IPAH, are either limited or lacking in SSc-PAH. Thus, a more focused approach, including a better understanding of the pathogenesis and genetic factors underlying the development of SSc-PAH, a search for more specific and reliable tools to adequately assess functional impairment and monitor therapy, as well as the design of novel targeted therapies, are all urgently required to alter the dismal course of this syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2894407  PMID: 20194816
scleroderma; pulmonary hypertension; prognostic factors
24.  Inhibition of MRP4 prevents and reverses pulmonary hypertension in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(7):2888-2897.
Multidrug resistance–associated protein 4 (MRP4, also known as Abcc4) regulates intracellular levels of cAMP and cGMP in arterial SMCs. Here, we report our studies of the role of MRP4 in the development and progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a severe vascular disease characterized by chronically elevated pulmonary artery pressure and accompanied by remodeling of the small pulmonary arteries as a prelude to right heart failure and premature death. MRP4 expression was increased in pulmonary arteries from patients with idiopathic PAH as well as in WT mice exposed to hypoxic conditions. Consistent with a pathogenic role for MRP4 in PAH, WT mice exposed to hypoxia for 3 weeks showed reversal of hypoxic pulmonary hypertension (PH) following oral administration of the MRP4 inhibitor MK571, and Mrp4–/– mice were protected from hypoxic PH. Inhibition of MRP4 in vitro was accompanied by increased intracellular cAMP and cGMP levels and PKA and PKG activities, implicating cyclic nucleotide-related signaling pathways in the mechanism underlying the protective effects of MRP4 inhibition. Our data suggest that MRP4 could represent a potential target for therapeutic intervention in PAH.
PMCID: PMC3223830  PMID: 21670499
25.  Overall asthma control achieved with budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy for patients on different treatment steps 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):38.
Adjusting medication for uncontrolled asthma involves selecting one of several options from the same or a higher treatment step outlined in asthma guidelines. We examined the relative benefit of introducing budesonide/formoterol (BUD/FORM) maintenance and reliever therapy (Symbicort SMART® Turbuhaler®) in patients previously prescribed treatments from Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) Steps 2, 3 or 4.
This is a post hoc analysis of the results of five large clinical trials (>12000 patients) comparing BUD/FORM maintenance and reliever therapy with other treatments categorised by treatment step at study entry. Both current clinical asthma control during the last week of treatment and exacerbations during the study were examined.
At each GINA treatment step, the proportion of patients achieving target levels of current clinical control were similar or higher with BUD/FORM maintenance and reliever therapy compared with the same or a higher fixed maintenance dose of inhaled corticosteroid/long-acting β2-agonist (ICS/LABA) (plus short-acting β2-agonist [SABA] as reliever), and rates of exacerbations were lower at all treatment steps in BUD/FORM maintenance and reliever therapy versus same maintenance dose ICS/LABA (P < 0.01) and at treatment Step 4 versus higher maintenance dose ICS/LABA (P < 0.001). BUD/FORM maintenance and reliever therapy also achieved significantly higher rates of current clinical control and significantly lower exacerbation rates at most treatment steps compared with a higher maintenance dose ICS + SABA (Steps 2-4 for control and Steps 3 and 4 for exacerbations). With all treatments, the proportion of patients achieving current clinical control was lower with increasing treatment steps.
BUD/FORM maintenance and reliever therapy may be a preferable option for patients on Steps 2 to 4 of asthma guidelines requiring a more effective treatment and, compared with other fixed dose alternatives, is most effective in the higher treatment steps.
PMCID: PMC3082240  PMID: 21463522

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