Mitochondrial activity is critical for efficient function of the cardiovascular system. In response to cardiovascular injury, mitochondrial dysfunction occurs and can lead to apoptosis and necrosis. Calpains are a 15-member family of Ca2+-activated cysteine proteases localized to the cytosol and mitochondria, and several have been shown to regulate apoptosis and necrosis. For example, in endothelial cells, Ca2+ overload causes mitochondrial calpain 1 cleavage of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger leading to mitochondrial Ca2+ accumulation. Also, activated calpain 1 cleaves Bid, inducing cytochrome c release and apoptosis. In renal cells, calpains 1 and 2 promote apoptosis and necrosis by cleaving cytoskeletal proteins, which increases plasma membrane permeability and cleavage of caspases. Calpain 10 cleaves electron transport chain proteins, causing decreased mitochondrial respiration and excessive activation, or inhibition of calpain 10 activity induces mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis. In cardiomyocytes, calpain 1 activates caspase 3 and poly-ADP ribose polymerase during tumour necrosis factor-α-induced apoptosis, and calpain 1 cleaves apoptosis-inducing factor after Ca2+ overload. Many of these observations have been elucidated with calpain inhibitors, but most calpain inhibitors are not specific for calpains or a specific calpain family member, creating more questions. The following review will discuss how calpains affect mitochondrial function and apoptosis within the cardiovascular system.
Calpains; Apoptosis; Mitochondria; Cardiovascular system
Brugada syndrome (BrS) is an autosomal-inherited cardiac arrhythmia characterized by an ST-segment elevation in the right precordial leads of the electrocardiogram and an increased risk of syncope and sudden death. SCN5A, encoding the cardiac sodium channel Nav1.5, is the main gene involved in BrS. Despite the fact that several mutations have been reported in the N-terminus of Nav1.5, the functional role of this region remains unknown. We aimed to characterize two BrS N-terminal mutations, R104W and R121W, a construct where this region was deleted, ΔNter, and a construct where only this region was present, Nter.
Methods and results
Patch-clamp recordings in HEK293 cells demonstrated that R104W, R121W, and ΔNter abolished the sodium current INa. Moreover, R104W and R121W mutations exerted a strong dominant-negative effect on wild-type (WT) channels. Immunocytochemistry of rat neonatal cardiomyocytes revealed that both mutants were mostly retained in the endoplasmic reticulum and that their co-expression with WT channels led to WT channel retention. Furthermore, co-immunoprecipitation experiments showed that Nav1.5-subunits were interacting with each other, even when mutated, deciphering the mutation dominant-negative effect. Both mutants were mostly degraded by the ubiquitin–proteasome system, while ΔNter was addressed to the membrane, and Nter expression induced a two-fold increase in INa. In addition, the co-expression of N-terminal mutants with the gating-defective but trafficking-competent R878C-Nav1.5 mutant gave rise to a small INa.
This study reports for the first time the critical role of the Nav1.5 N-terminal region in channel function and the dominant-negative effect of trafficking-defective channels occurring through α-subunit interaction.
Arrhythmia; Brugada syndrome; Nav1.5; SCN5A; Sodium
We hypothesized that the structure and function of the mature valves is largely dependent upon how these tissues are built during development, and defects in how the valves are built can lead to the pathological progression of a disease phenotype. Thus, we sought to uncover potential developmental origins and mechanistic underpinnings causal to myxomatous mitral valve disease. We focus on how filamin-A, a cytoskeletal binding protein with strong links to human myxomatous valve disease, can function as a regulatory interface to control proper mitral valve development.
Methods and results
Filamin-A-deficient mice exhibit abnormally enlarged mitral valves during foetal life, which progresses to a myxomatous phenotype by 2 months of age. Through expression studies, in silico modelling, 3D morphometry, biochemical studies, and 3D matrix assays, we demonstrate that the inception of the valve disease occurs during foetal life and can be attributed, in part, to a deficiency of interstitial cells to efficiently organize the extracellular matrix (ECM). This ECM organization during foetal valve gestation is due, in part, to molecular interactions between filamin-A, serotonin, and the cross-linking enzyme, transglutaminase-2 (TG2). Pharmacological and genetic perturbations that inhibit serotonin-TG2-filamin-A interactions lead to impaired ECM remodelling and engender progression to a myxomatous valve phenotype.
These findings illustrate a molecular mechanism by which valve interstitial cells, through a serotonin, TG, and filamin-A pathway, regulate matrix organization during foetal valve development. Additionally, these data indicate that disrupting key regulatory interactions during valve development can set the stage for the generation of postnatal myxomatous valve disease.
Filamin-A; Serotonin; Myxomatous valve disease; Transglutaminase-2; Valve maturation
The regulation of vascular diameter by vasoconstrictors and vasodilators requires that vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) be physically coupled to extracellular matrix (ECM) and neighbouring cells in order for a vessel to mechanically function and transfer force. The hypothesis was tested that integrin-mediated adhesion to the ECM is dynamically up-regulated in VSMCs during contractile activation in response to a vasoconstrictor and likewise down-regulated during relaxation in response to a vasodilator.
Methods and results
VSMCs were isolated from the Sprague-Dawley rat cremaster muscles. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) with fibronectin (FN)-functionalized probes was employed to investigate the biomechanical responses and adhesion of VSMCs. Responses to angiotensin II (Ang II; 10−6 M) and adenosine (Ado; 10−4 M) were recorded by measurements of cell cortical elasticity and cell adhesion. The results showed that Ang II caused an immediate increase in adhesion (+27%) between the probe and cell. Cell stiffness increased (+70%) in parallel with the adhesion change. Ado decreased adhesion (−15%) to FN and reduced (−30%) stiffness.
Changes in the receptor-mediated activation of the contractile apparatus cause parallel alterations in cell adhesion and cell cortical elasticity. These studies support the hypothesis that the regulation of cell adhesion is coordinated with contraction and demonstrate the dynamic nature of cell adhesion to the ECM. It is proposed that coordination of adhesion and VSMC contraction is an important mechanism that allows for an efficient transfer of force between the contractile apparatus of the cell and the extracellular environment.
Vascular smooth muscle cell; Vascular control; Cell adhesion; Cell elasticity; AFM
The contraction of a heart cell is controlled by Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release between L-type Ca2+ channels (LCCs) in the cell membrane/T-tubules (TTs) and ryanodine receptors (RyRs) in the junctional sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). During heart failure, LCC–RyR signalling becomes defective. The purpose of the present study was to reveal the ultrastructural mechanism underlying the defective LCC–RyR signalling and contractility.
Methods and results
In rat models of heart failure produced by transverse aortic constriction surgery, stereological analysis of transmission electron microscopic images showed that the volume density and the surface area of junctional SRs and those of SR-coupled TTs were both decreased in failing heart cells. The TT–SR junctions were displaced or missing from the Z-line areas. Moreover, the spatial span of individual TT–SR junctions was markedly reduced in failing heart cells. Numerical simulation and junctophilin-2 knockdown experiments demonstrated that the decrease in junction size (and thereby the constitutive LCC and RyR numbers) led to a scattered delay of Ca2+ release activation.
The shrinking and eventual absence of TT–SR junctions are important mechanisms underlying the desynchronized and inhomogeneous Ca2+ release and the decreased contractile strength in heart failure. Maintaining the nanoscopic integrity of TT–SR junctions thus represents a therapeutic strategy against heart failure and related cardiomyopathies.
Heart failure; Ultrastructure; Calcium channel; Excitation–contraction coupling
Microdomain signalling mechanisms underlie key aspects of artery function and the modulation of intracellular calcium, with transient receptor potential (TRP) channels playing an integral role. This study determines the distribution and role of TRP canonical type 3 (C3) channels in the control of endothelium-derived hyperpolarization (EDH)-mediated vasodilator tone in rat mesenteric artery.
Methods and results
TRPC3 antibody specificity was verified using rat tissue, human embryonic kidney (HEK)-293 cells stably transfected with mouse TRPC3 cDNA, and TRPC3 knock-out (KO) mouse tissue using western blotting and confocal and ultrastructural immunohistochemistry. TRPC3-Pyr3 (ethyl-1-(4-(2,3,3-trichloroacrylamide)phenyl)-5-(trifluoromethyl)-1H-pyrazole-4-carboxylate) specificity was verified using patch clamp of mouse mesenteric artery endothelial and TRPC3-transfected HEK cells, and TRPC3 KO and wild-type mouse aortic endothelial cell calcium imaging and mesenteric artery pressure myography. TRPC3 distribution, expression, and role in EDH-mediated function were examined in rat mesenteric artery using immunohistochemistry and western blotting, and pressure myography and endothelial cell membrane potential recordings. In rat mesenteric artery, TRPC3 was diffusely distributed in the endothelium, with approximately five-fold higher expression at potential myoendothelial microdomain contact sites, and immunoelectron microscopy confirmed TRPC3 at these sites. Western blotting and endothelial damage confirmed primary endothelial TRPC3 expression. In rat mesenteric artery endothelial cells, Pyr3 inhibited hyperpolarization generation, and with individual SKCa (apamin) or IKCa (TRAM-34) block, Pyr3 abolished the residual respective IKCa- and SKCa-dependent EDH-mediated vasodilation.
The spatial localization of TRPC3 and associated channels, receptors, and calcium stores are integral for myoendothelial microdomain function. TRPC3 facilitates endothelial SKCa and IKCa activation, as key components of EDH-mediated vasodilator activity and for regulating mesenteric artery tone.
Endothelium; Calcium channel; Potassium channel; Signalling microdomain; Smooth muscle; Vasodilation
Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA) is essential in regulating [Na+]i, and thus cardiac myocyte Ca2+ and contractility via Na+/Ca2+ exchange. Different NKA-α subunit isoforms are present in the heart and may differ functionally, depending on specific membrane localization. In smooth muscle and astrocytes, NKA-α2 is located at the junctions with the endo(sarco)plasmic reticulum, where they could regulate local [Na+], and indirectly junctional cleft [Ca2+]. Whether this model holds for cardiac myocytes is unclear.
Methods and results
The ouabain-resistant NKA-α1 cannot be selectively blocked to assess its effect. To overcome this, we used mice in which NKA-α1 is ouabain sensitive and NKA-α2 is ouabain resistant (SWAP mice). We measured the effect of ouabain at low concentration on [Na+]i, Ca2+ transients, and the fractional sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ release in cardiac myocytes from wild-type (WT; NKA-α2 inhibition) and SWAP mice (selective NKA-α1 block). At baseline, Na+ and Ca2+ regulations are similar in WT and SWAP mice. For equal levels of total NKA inhibition (∼25%), ouabain significantly increased Ca2+ transients (from ΔF/F0= 1.5 ± 0.1 to 1.8 ± 0.1), and fractional SR Ca2+ release (from 24 ± 3 to 29 ± 3%) in WT (NKA-α2 block) but not in SWAP myocytes (NKA-α1 block). This occurred despite a similar and modest increase in [Na+]i (∼2 mM) in both groups. The effect in WT mice was mediated specifically by NKA-α2 inhibition because at a similar concentration ouabain had no effect in transgenic mice where both NKA-α1 and NKA-α2 are ouabain resistant.
NKA-α2 has a more prominent role (vs. NKA-α1) in modulating cardiac myocyte SR Ca2+ release.
Sarcolemma–SR junctions; Na+/K+-ATPase; Ouabain; Na+/Ca2+ exchanger
The shRNA-mediated loss of expression of the desmosomal protein plakophilin-2 leads to sodium current (INa) dysfunction. Whether pkp2 gene haploinsufficiency leads to INa deficit in vivo remains undefined. Mutations in pkp2 are detected in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). Ventricular fibrillation and sudden death often occur in the ‘concealed phase’ of the disease, prior to overt structural damage. The mechanisms responsible for these arrhythmias remain poorly understood. We sought to characterize the morphology, histology, and ultrastructural features of PKP2-heterozygous-null (PKP2-Hz) murine hearts and explore the relation between PKP2 abundance, INa function, and cardiac electrical synchrony.
Methods and results
Hearts of PKP2-Hz mice were characterized by multiple methods. We observed ultrastructural but not histological or gross anatomical differences in PKP2-Hz hearts compared with wild-type (WT) littermates. Yet, in myocytes, decreased amplitude and a shift in gating and kinetics of INa were observed. To further unmask INa deficiency, we exposed myocytes, Langendorff-perfused hearts, and anaesthetized animals to a pharmacological challenge (flecainide). In PKP2-Hz hearts, the extent of flecainide-induced INa block, impaired ventricular conduction, and altered electrocardiographic parameters were larger than controls. Flecainide provoked ventricular arrhythmias and death in PKP2-Hz animals, but not in the WT.
PKP2 haploinsufficiency leads to INa deficit in murine hearts. Our data support the notion of a cross-talk between desmosome and sodium channel complex. They also suggest that INa dysfunction may contribute to generation and/or maintenance of arrhythmias in PKP2-deficient hearts. Whether pharmacological challenges could help unveil arrhythmia risk in patients with mutations or variants in PKP2 remains undefined.
Arrhythmia (mechanisms); Cell communication; Genetic disorders; Ion channels; Nachannel; Right ventricular; ARVC
The transient outward potassium current (Ito) plays important roles in action potential (AP) morphology and dynamics; however, its role in the genesis of early afterdepolarizations (EADs) is not well understood. We aimed to study the effects and mechanisms of Ito on EAD genesis in cardiac cells using combined experimental and computational approaches.
Methods and results
We first carried out patch-clamp experiments in isolated rabbit ventricular myocytes exposed to H2O2 (0.2 or 1 mM), in which EADs were induced at a slow pacing rate. EADs were eliminated by either increasing the pacing rate or blocking Ito with 2 mM 4-aminopyridine. In addition to enhancing the L-type calcium current (ICa,L) and the late sodium current, H2O2 also increased the conductance, slowed inactivation, and accelerated recovery from the inactivation of Ito. Computer simulations showed that Ito promoted EADs under the condition of reduced repolarization reserve, consistent with the experimental observations. However, EADs were only promoted in the intermediate ranges of the Ito conductance and the inactivation time constant. The underlying mechanism is that Ito lowers the AP plateau voltage into the range at which the time-dependent potassium current (namely IKs) activation is further slowed and ICa,L is available for reactivation, leading to voltage oscillations to manifest EADs. Further experimental studies in cardiac cells of other species validated the theoretical predictions.
In cardiac cells, Ito, with a proper conductance and inactivation speed, potentiates EADs by setting the AP plateau into the voltage range where ICa,L reactivation is facilitated and IKs activation is slowed.
Transient outward current; Early afterdepolarization; Cardiac arrhythmias; Computer model; Dynamic mechanisms
Pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (PAECs) express the enzymes needed for generation of l-arginine from intracellular l-citrulline but do not express the enzymes needed for de novo
l-citrulline synthesis. Hence, l-citrulline levels in PAECs are dependent on l-citrulline transport. Once generated, l-arginine can be converted to l-citrulline and nitric oxide (NO) by the enzyme NO synthase. We sought to determine whether hypoxia, a condition aetiologically linked to pulmonary hypertension, alters the transport of l-citrulline and the expression of the sodium-coupled neutral amino acid transporters (SNATs) in PAECs from newborn piglets.
Methods and results
PAECs isolated from newborn piglets were cultured under normoxic and hypoxic conditions and used to measure SNAT1, 2, 3, and 5 protein expression and 14C-l-citrulline uptake. SNAT1 protein expression was increased, while SNAT2, SNAT3, and SNAT5 expression was unaltered in hypoxic PAECs. 14C-l-citrulline uptake was increased in hypoxic PAECs. Studies with inhibitors of System A (SNAT1/2) and System N (SNAT3/5) revealed that the increased 14C-l-citrulline uptake was largely due to System A-mediated transport. Additional studies were performed to evaluate SNAT protein expression and l-citrulline levels in lungs of piglets with chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension and comparable age controls. Lungs from piglets raised in chronic hypoxia exhibited greater SNAT1 expression and higher l-citrulline levels than lungs from controls.
Increased SNAT1 expression and the concomitant enhanced ability to transport l-citrulline in PAECs could represent an important regulatory mechanism to counteract NO signalling impairments known to occur during the development of chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension in newborns.
Pulmonary hypertension; Sodium-coupled neutral amino acid transporters; Nitric oxide
The nucleotide adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) has classically been considered the cell's primary energy currency. Importantly, a novel role for ATP as an extracellular autocrine and/or paracrine signalling molecule has evolved over the past century and extensive work has been conducted to characterize the ATP-sensitive purinergic receptors expressed on almost all cell types in the body. Extracellular ATP elicits potent effects on vascular cells to regulate blood vessel tone but can also be involved in vascular pathologies such as atherosclerosis. While the effects of purinergic signalling in the vasculature have been well documented, the mechanism(s) mediating the regulated release of ATP from cells in the blood vessel wall and circulation are now a key target of investigation. The aim of this review is to examine the current proposed mechanisms of ATP release from vascular cells, with a special emphasis on the transporters and channels involved in ATP release from vascular smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, circulating red blood cells, and perivascular sympathetic nerves, including vesicular exocytosis, plasma membrane F1/F0-ATP synthase, ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, connexin hemichannels, and pannexin channels.
Adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP); Purine; Vessel wall biology; Connexin hemichannels; Pannexins
The objective of the present study is to elucidate the pathogenic role of eicosanoids in myocardial infarction (MI). The accumulation of eicosanoid metabolites in ischaemic myocardium has been demonstrated in animal models and patients with MI, and it occurs in parallel with the development of irreversible cardiac damage. However, the key question that remains unanswered is whether cardiac-generated eicosanoids are the cause or the consequence of cardiac cell damage in MI.
Methods and results
We used a clinically relevant animal model of MI and metabolic profiling to monitor the eicosanoid profile in ischaemic myocardium. We demonstrate that ischaemia induces the generation of prostanoids mainly through the cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 pathway in the myocardium. Cardiac-generated prostanoids, particularly prostaglandin D2 (PGD2), can directly induce apoptosis in cardiac myocytes. This effect involves the up-regulation of the pro-apoptotic gene, Fas ligand (FasL), in a D-type prostanoid receptor-independent manner. The treatment of the MI mice with low-dose aspirin effectively inhibits the ischaemia-induced prostanoid generation and FasL expression in the myocardium, leading to the reduction in cardiac apoptosis following cardiac ischaemia.
Cardiac ischaemia results in COX-1-mediated generation of prostanoids, which by inducing cardiac myocyte apoptosis, contribute to the cardiac cell loss following MI. The benefits of low-dose aspirin treatment in MI may be attributable, in part, to the inhibition of cardiac prostanoid generation and attenuation of apoptosis. Further understanding of the mechanisms underlying prostanoid-induced cardiac apoptosis may be of significant value in designing new therapeutic strategies to prevent aberrant cell loss following MI and subsequent progression to heart failure.
Myocardial infarction; Eicosanoids; Prostanoids; Apoptosis; Metabolomics
Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a devastating condition for which no disease-modifying therapies exist. PH is recognized as proliferative disease of the pulmonary artery (PA). In the experimental newborn calf model of hypoxia-induced PH, adventitial fibroblasts in the PA wall exhibit a heightened replication index. Because elevated platelet-derived growth factor β receptor (PDGFβ-R) signalling is associated with PH, we tested the hypothesis that the activation of PDGFβ-R contributes to fibroblast proliferation and adventitial remodelling in PH.
Methods and results
Newborn calves were exposed to either ambient air (PB = 640 mmHg) (Neo-C) or high altitude (PB = 445 mm Hg) (Neo-PH) for 2 weeks. PDGFβ-R phosphorylation was markedly elevated in PA adventitia of Neo-PH calves as well as in cultured PA fibroblasts isolated from Neo-PH animals. PDGFβ-R activation with PDGF-BB stimulated higher replication in Neo-PH cells compared with that of control fibroblasts. PDGF-BB-induced proliferation was dependent on reactive oxygen species generation and extracellular signal-regulated kinase1/2 activation in both cell populations; however, only Neo-PH cell division via PDGFβ-R activation displayed a unique dependence on c-Jun N-terminal kinase1 (JNK1) stimulation as the blockade of JNK1 with SP600125, a pharmacological antagonist of the JNK pathway, and JNK1-targeted siRNA selectively blunted Neo-PH cell proliferation.
Our data strongly suggest that hypoxia-induced modified cells engage the PDGFβ-R-JNK1 axis to confer distinctively heightened proliferation and adventitial remodelling in PH.
PDGFβ receptor; JNK1; Hypoxic pulmonary hypertension; Proliferation; Adventitial fibroblasts
Female gender is a risk factor for long QT-related arrhythmias, but the underlying mechanisms remain uncertain. Here, we tested the hypothesis that gender-dependent function of the post-depolarization ‘late’ sodium current (INa-L) contributes.
Methods and results
Studies were conducted in mice in which the canonical cardiac sodium channel Scn5a locus was disrupted, and expression of human wild-type SCN5A cDNA substituted. Baseline QT intervals were similar in male and female mice, but exposure to the sodium channel opener anemone toxin ATX-II elicited polymorphic ventricular tachycardia in 0/9 males vs. 6/9 females. Ventricular INa-L and action potential durations were increased in myocytes isolated from female mice compared with those from males before and especially after treatment with ATX-II. Further, ATX-II elicited potentially arrhythmogenic early afterdepolarizations in myocytes from 0/5 male mice and 3/5 female mice.
These data identify variable late INa as a modulator of gender-dependent arrhythmia susceptibility.
Mouse; Late sodium current; Gender; Arrhythmias
African trypanosomiasis, caused by Trypanosoma brucei species, leads to both neurological and cardiac dysfunction and can be fatal if untreated. While the neurological-related pathogenesis is well studied, the cardiac pathogenesis remains unknown. The current study exposed isolated ventricular cardiomyocytes and adult rat hearts to T. brucei to test whether trypanosomes can alter cardiac function independent of a systemic inflammatory/immune response.
Methods and results
Using confocal imaging, T. brucei and T. brucei culture media (supernatant) caused an increased frequency of arrhythmogenic spontaneous diastolic sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR)-mediated Ca2+ release (Ca2+ waves) in isolated adult rat ventricular cardiomyocytes. Studies utilising inhibitors, recombinant protein and RNAi all demonstrated that this altered SR function was due to T. brucei cathepsin-L (TbCatL). Separate experiments revealed that TbCatL induced a 10–15% increase of SERCA activity but reduced SR Ca2+ content, suggesting a concomitant increased SR-mediated Ca2+ leak. This conclusion was supported by data demonstrating that TbCatL increased Ca2+ wave frequency. These effects were abolished by autocamtide-2-related inhibitory peptide, highlighting a role for CaMKII in the TbCatL action on SR function. Isolated Langendorff perfused whole heart experiments confirmed that supernatant caused an increased number of arrhythmic events.
These data demonstrate for the first time that African trypanosomes alter cardiac function independent of a systemic immune response, via a mechanism involving extracellular cathepsin-L-mediated changes in SR function.
Sarcoplasmic reticulum; Cardiomyocyte; Calcium; Trypanosomiasis; Trypanosome
Differentiated vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) retain the capacity to modify their phenotype in response to inflammation or injury. This phenotypic switching is a crucial component of vascular disease, and is partly dependent on epigenetic regulation. An appreciation has been building in the literature for the essential role chromatin remodelling plays both in SMC lineage determination and in influencing changes in SMC behaviour and state. This process includes numerous chromatin regulatory elements and pathways such as histone acetyltransferases, deacetylases, and methyltransferases and other factors that act at SMC-specific marker sites to silence or permit access to the cellular transcriptional machinery and on other key regulatory elements such as myocardin and Kruppel-like factor 4 (KLF4). Various stimuli known to alter the SMC phenotype, such as transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), oxidized phospholipids, and retinoic acid, appear to act in part through effects upon SMC chromatin structure. In recent years, specific covalent histone modifications that appear to establish SMC determinacy have been identified, while others alter the differentiation state. In this article, we review the mechanisms of chromatin remodelling as it applies to the SMC phenotype.
Phenotypic switching; Histone modification; Vascular development; Vascular disease
Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) possess remarkable phenotypic plasticity that allows rapid adaptation to fluctuating environmental cues, including during development and progression of vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. Although much is known regarding factors and mechanisms that control SMC phenotypic plasticity in cultured cells, our knowledge of the mechanisms controlling SMC phenotypic switching in vivo is far from complete. Indeed, the lack of definitive SMC lineage-tracing studies in the context of atherosclerosis, and difficulties in identifying phenotypically modulated SMCs within lesions that have down-regulated typical SMC marker genes, and/or activated expression of markers of alternative cell types including macrophages, raise major questions regarding the contributions of SMCs at all stages of atherogenesis. The goal of this review is to rigorously evaluate the current state of our knowledge regarding possible phenotypes exhibited by SMCs within atherosclerotic lesions and the factors and mechanisms that may control these phenotypic transitions.
Smooth muscle cells; Epigenetics; Plasticity; Pluripotency genes; Macrophages; KLF4
Although an abundant amount of research has been devoted to the study of angiogenesis, its precise mechanisms are incompletely understood. Numerous clinical trials focused on therapeutic angiogenesis for the treatment of tissue ischaemia have not been as successful as those of preclinical studies. Thus, additional studies are needed to better understand critical molecular mechanisms regulating ischaemic neovascularization to identify novel therapeutic agents. Nitric oxide (NO) plays a central role in ischaemic neovascularization through the generation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and the activation of several other signalling responses. Accumulated evidence suggests that endothelial protein kinase A/endothelial NO synthase (PKA/eNOS) signalling may play an important role in ischaemic disorders by promoting neovascularization. This review highlights recent advances in the role of the PKA/eNOS and NO-cGMP-kinase cascade pathway in ischaemic neovascularization. We also discuss molecular relationships of PKA/eNOS with other angiogenic pathways and explore the possibility of activation of the NO/nitrite endocrine system as potential therapeutic targets for ischaemic angiogenesis.
PKA; eNOS; Nitric oxide; Nitrite; Vascular remodelling
The contribution of blood flow to angiogenesis is incompletely understood. We examined the effect of blood flow on Notch signalling in the vasculature of zebrafish embryos, and whether blood flow regulates angiogenesis in zebrafish with constitutively up-regulated hypoxic signalling.
Methods and results
Developing zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos survive via diffusion in the absence of circulation induced by knockdown of cardiac troponin T2 or chemical cardiac cessation. The absence of blood flow increased vascular Notch signalling in 48 h post-fertilization old embryos via up-regulation of the Notch ligand dll4. Despite this, patterning of the intersegmental vessels is not affected by absent blood flow. We therefore examined homozygous vhl mutant zebrafish that have constitutively up-regulated hypoxic signalling. These display excessive and aberrant angiogenesis from 72 h post-fertilization, with significantly increased endothelial number, vessel diameter, and length. The absence of blood flow abolished these effects, though normal vessel patterning was preserved.
We show that blood flow suppresses vascular Notch signalling via down-regulation of dll4. We have also shown that blood flow is required for angiogenesis in response to hypoxic signalling but is not required for normal vessel patterning. These data indicate important differences in hypoxia-driven vs. developmental angiogenesis.
Zebrafish; Angiogenesis; Blood flow; Notch; Angio-/arteriogenesis
Binge drinking often triggers compromised myocardial contractile function while activating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Given the role of AMPK in the initiation of autophagy through the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and Unc51-like kinase (ULK1), this study was designed to examine the impact of AMPK deficiency on cardiac function and the mechanism involved with a focus on autophagy following an acute ethanol challenge.
Methods and results
Wild-type (WT) and transgenic mice overexpressing a kinase-dead (KD) α2 isoform (K45R mutation) of AMPK were challenged with ethanol. Glucose tolerance, echocardiography, Langendorff heart and cardiomyocyte contractile function, autophagy, and autophagic signalling including AMPK, acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), mTOR, the mTORC1-associated protein Raptor, and ULK1 were examined. Ethanol exposure triggered glucose intolerance and compromised cardiac contraction accompanied by increased phosphorylation of AMPK and ACC as well as autophagosome accumulation (increased LC3II and p62), the effects of which were attenuated or mitigated by AMPK deficiency or inhibition. Ethanol dampened and stimulated, respectively, the phosphorylation of mTOR and Raptor, the effects of which were abolished by AMPK deficiency. ULK1 phosphorylation at Ser757 and Ser777 was down-regulated and up-regulated, respectively, by ethanol, the effect of which was nullified by AMPK deficiency or inhibition. Moreover, the ethanol challenge enhanced LC3 puncta in H9c2 cells and promoted cardiac contractile dysfunction, and these effects were ablated by the inhibition of autophagy or AMPK. Lysosomal inhibition failed to accentuate ethanol-induced increases in LC3II and p62.
In summary, these data suggest that ethanol exposure may trigger myocardial dysfunction through a mechanism associated with AMPK-mTORC1-ULK1-mediated autophagy.
Ethanol; AMPK deficiency; Autophagy; Cardiac function; ULK1
Cardiolipin (CL) is a tetra-acyl phospholipid that provides structural and functional support to several proteins in the inner mitochondrial membrane. The majority of CL in the healthy mammalian heart contains four linoleic acid acyl chains (L4CL). A selective loss of L4CL is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction and heart failure in humans and animal models. We examined whether supplementing the diet with linoleic acid would preserve cardiac L4CL and attenuate mitochondrial dysfunction and contractile failure in rats with hypertensive heart failure.
Methods and results
Male spontaneously hypertensive heart failure rats (21 months of age) were administered diets supplemented with high-linoleate safflower oil (HLSO) or lard (10% w/w; 28% kilocalorie fat) or without supplemental fat (control) for 4 weeks. HLSO preserved L4CL and total CL to 90% of non-failing levels (vs. 61–75% in control and lard groups), and attenuated 17–22% decreases in state 3 mitochondrial respiration observed in the control and lard groups (P < 0.05). Left ventricular fractional shortening was significantly higher in HLSO vs. control (33 ± 2 vs. 29 ± 2%, P < 0.05), while plasma insulin levels were lower (5.4 ± 1.1 vs. 9.1 ± 2.3 ng/mL; P < 0.05), with no significant effect of lard supplementation. HLSO also increased serum concentrations of several eicosanoid species compared with control and lard diets, but had no effect on plasma glucose or blood pressure.
Moderate consumption of HLSO preserves CL and mitochondrial function in the failing heart and may be a useful adjuvant therapy for this condition.
Heart failure; Polyunsaturated fatty acids; Cardiolipin; Mitochondria; Hypertension
Vascular cartilaginous metaplasia and calcification are common in patients with atherosclerosis. However, sources of cells contributing to the development of this complication are currently unknown. In this study, we ascertained the origin of cells that give rise to cartilaginous and bony elements in atherosclerotic vessels.
Methods and results
We utilized genetic fate mapping strategies to trace cells of smooth muscle (SM) origin via SM22α-Cre recombinase and Rosa26-LacZ Cre reporter alleles. In animals expressing both transgenes, co-existence within a single cell of β-galactosidase [marking cells originally derived from SM cells (SMCs)] with osteochondrogenic (Runx2/Cbfa1) or chondrocytic (Sox9, type II collagen) markers, along with simultaneous loss of SM lineage proteins, provides a strong evidence supporting reprogramming of SMCs towards osteochondrogenic or chondrocytic differentiation. Using this technique, we found that vascular SMCs accounted for ∼80% of Runx2/Cbfa1-positive cells and almost all of type II collagen-positive cells (∼98%) in atherosclerotic vessels of LDLr−/− and ApoE−/− mice. We also assessed contribution from bone marrow (BM)-derived cells via analysing vessels dissected from chimerical ApoE−/− mice transplanted with green fluorescence protein-expressing BM. Marrow-derived cells were found to account for ∼20% of Runx2/Cbfa1-positive cells in calcified atherosclerotic vessels of ApoE−/− mice.
Our results are the first to definitively identify cell sources attributable to atherosclerotic intimal calcification. SMCs were found to be a major contributor that reprogrammed its lineage towards osteochondrogenesis. Marrow-derived cells from the circulation also contributed significantly to the early osteochondrogenic differentiation in atherosclerotic vessels.
Atherosclerosis; Circulating progenitors; Osteochondrogenic differentiation; Smooth muscle cells; Vascular calcification
Reentry accounts for most life-threatening arrhythmias, complicating myocardial infarction, and therapies that consistently prevent reentry from occurring are lacking. In this study, we compare antiarrhythmic effects of gene transfer of green fluorescent protein (GFP; sham), the skeletal muscle sodium channel (SkM1), the liver-specific connexin (Cx32), and SkM1/Cx32 in the subacute canine infarct.
Methods and results
Immediately after ligation of the left anterior descending artery, viral constructs were implanted in the epicardial border zone (EBZ). Five to 7 days later, efficient restoration of impulse propagation (narrow QRS and local electrogram duration) occurred in SkM1, Cx32, and SkM1/Cx32 groups (P< 0.05 vs. GFP). Programmed electrical stimulation from the EBZ induced sustained ventricular tachycardia (VT)/ventricular fibrillation (VF) in 15/22 GFP dogs vs. 2/12 SkM1, 6/14 Cx32, and 8/10 SkM1/Cx32 (P< 0.05 SkM1 vs. GFP). GFP, SkM1, and SkM1/Cx32 had predominantly polymorphic VT/VF, whereas in Cx32 dogs, monomorphic VT predominated (P< 0.05 for Cx32 vs. GFP). Tetrazolium red staining showed significantly larger infarcts in Cx32- vs. GFP-treated animals (P< 0.05).
Whereas SkM1 gene transfer reduces the incidence of inducible VT/VF, Cx32 therapy to improve gap junctional conductance results in larger infarct size, a different VT morphology, and no antiarrhythmic efficacy.
Myocardial infarction; Arrhythmias; Na+ channels; Connexins; Gene therapy