Embryonic vascular smooth muscle cells (vSMCs) have a synthetic phenotype; in adults, they commit to the mature contractile phenotype. Research shows that human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) differentiate into vSMCs, but nobody has yet documented their maturation into the synthetic or contractile phenotypes. This study sought to control the fate decisions of hPSC derivatives to guide their maturation towards a desired phenotype.
Methods and results
The long-term differentiation of hPSCs, including the integration-free-induced PSC line, in high serum with platelet-derived growth factor-BB (PDGF-BB) and transforming growth factor-β1, allowed us to induce the synthetic vSMC (Syn-vSMC) phenotype with increased extracellular matrix (ECM) protein expression and reduced expression of contractile proteins. By monitoring the expression of two contractile proteins, smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (SMMHC) and elastin, we show that serum starvation and PDGF-BB deprivation caused maturation towards the contractile vSMC (Con-vSMC) phenotype. Con-vSMCs differ distinctively from Syn-vSMC derivatives in their condensed morphology, prominent filamentous arrangement of cytoskeleton proteins, production and assembly of elastin, low proliferation, numerous and active caveolae, enlarged endoplasmic reticulum, and ample stress fibres and bundles, as well as their high contractility. When transplanted subcutaneously into nude mice, the human Con-vSMCs aligned next to the host's growing functional vasculature, with occasional circumferential wrapping and vascular tube narrowing.
We control hPSC differentiation into synthetic or contractile phenotypes by using appropriate concentrations of relevant factors. Deriving Con-vSMCs from an integration-free hiPSC line may prove useful for regenerative therapy involving blood vessel differentiation and stabilization.
Smooth muscle; Stem cell; Cell differentiation
Endothelial SKCa and IKCa channels play an important role in the regulation of vascular function and systemic blood pressure. Based on our previous findings that small molecule activators of SKCa and IKCa channels (i.e. NS309 and SKA-31) can inhibit myogenic tone in isolated resistance arteries, we hypothesized that this class of compounds may induce effective vasodilation in an intact vascular bed, such as the coronary circulation.
Methods and results
In a Langendorff-perfused, beating rat heart preparation, acute bolus administrations of SKA-31 (0.01–5 µg) dose-dependently increased total coronary flow (25–30%) in both male and female hearts; these responses were associated with modest, secondary increases in left ventricular (LV) systolic pressure and heart rate. SKA-31 evoked responses in coronary flow, LV pressure, and heart rate were qualitatively comparable to acute responses evoked by bradykinin (1 µg) and adenosine (10 µg). In the presence of apamin and TRAM-34, selective blockers of SKCa and IKCa channels, respectively, SKA-31 and bradykinin-induced responses were largely inhibited, whereas the adenosine-induced changes were blocked by ∼40%; TRAM-34 alone produced less inhibition. Sodium nitroprusside (SNP, 0.2 μg bolus dose) evoked changes in coronary flow, LV pressure, and heart rate were similar to those induced by SKA-31, but were unaffected by apamin + TRAM-34. The NOS inhibitor L-NNA reduced bradykinin- and adenosine-evoked changes, but did not affect responses to either SKA-31 or SNP.
Our study demonstrates that SKA-31 can rapidly and reversibly induce dilation of the coronary circulation in intact functioning hearts under basal flow and contractility conditions.
Coronary circulation; Endothelium; Ca2+-activated K+ channel; Vasodilation
The ability of the endothelium to produce nitric oxide, which induces generation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) that activates cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG-I), in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), is essential for the maintenance of vascular homeostasis. Yet, disturbance of this nitric oxide/cGMP/PKG-I pathway has been shown to play an important role in many cardiovascular diseases. In the last two decades, in vitro and in vivo models of vascular injury have shown that PKG-I is suppressed following nitric oxide, cGMP, cytokine, and growth factor stimulation. The molecular basis for these changes in PKG-I expression is still poorly understood, and they are likely to be mediated by a number of processes, including changes in gene transcription, mRNA stability, protein synthesis, or protein degradation. Emerging studies have begun to define mechanisms responsible for changes in PKG-I expression and have identified cis- and trans-acting regulatory elements, with a plausible role being attributed to post-translational control of PKG-I protein levels. This review will focus mainly on recent advances in understanding of the regulation of PKG-I expression in VSMCs, with an emphasis on the physiological and pathological significance of PKG-I down-regulation in VSMCs in certain circumstances.
cGMP-dependent protein kinase; Gene; mRNA stability; Regulation; Transcription; Vascular smooth muscle cells; Ubiquitination; Post-transcription
Understanding myofibrillogenesis is essential for elucidating heart muscle formation, development, and remodelling in response to physiological stimulation. Here, we report the dynamic assembly process of contractile myosin filaments onto myofibrils in a live cardiomyocyte culture during myofibrillogenesis.
Methods and results
Utilizing a custom-built, two-photon excitation fluorescence and second harmonic generation imaging system equipped with an on-stage incubator, we observed new sarcomere additions in rat neonatal cardiomyocytes during 10 h of on-stage incubation. The new sarcomere additions occurred at the side of existing myofibrils, where we observed mature myofibrils acting as templates, or at the interstice of several separated myofibrils.
During sarcomeric addition, myosin filaments are assembled onto the premyofibril laterally. This lateral addition, which proceeds stepwise along the axial direction, plays an important role in the accumulation of Z-bodies to form mature Z-disks and in the regulation of sarcomeric alignment during maturation.
Myofibrillogenesis; Sarcomere addition; Myosin filaments; Second harmonic generation; On-stage incubator
α-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH), derived from the precursor molecule pro-opiomelanocortin, exerts potent anti-inflammatory actions in the vasculature, but its role in circulatory regulation remains unclear. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether α-MSH could regulate the local control of blood vessel tone.
Methods and results
Using in vivo and ex vivo methods to assess vascular reactivity, we found that α-MSH improved endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in the mouse aorta and coronary circulation without directly contracting or relaxing blood vessels. α-MSH promoted vasodilatation by enhancing endothelial nitric oxide (NO) formation and by improving sensitivity to endothelium-independent blood vessel relaxation. Using cultured human endothelial cells to elucidate the involved molecular mechanisms, we show that α-MSH increased the expression and phosphorylation of endothelial NO synthase in these cells. The observed effects were regulated by melanocortin 1 (MC1) receptors expressed in the endothelium. In keeping with the vascular protective role of α-MSH, in vivo treatment with stable analogues of α-MSH ameliorated endothelial dysfunction associated with aging and diet-induced obesity in mice.
The present study identifies α-MSH and endothelial MC1 receptors as a new signalling pathway contributing to the regulation of NO availability and vascular function. These findings suggest applicability of α-MSH analogues for therapeutic use in pathological conditions that are characterized by vascular dysfunction.
Vasodilation; Nitric oxide; Endothelial function; Endothelial nitric oxide synthase; Melanocortin
Post-translational modification of proteins by O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is cardioprotective but its role in cardioprotection by remote ischaemic preconditioning (rIPC) and the reduced efficacy of rIPC in type 2 diabetes mellitus is unknown. In this study we achieved mechanistic insight into the remote stimulus mediating and the target organ response eliciting the cardioprotective effect by rIPC in non-diabetic and diabetic myocardium and the influence of O-GlcNAcylation.
Methods and results
The cardioprotective capacity and the influence on myocardial O-GlcNAc levels of plasma dialysate from eight healthy volunteers and eight type 2 diabetic patients drawn before and after subjection to an rIPC stimulus were tested on human isolated atrial trabeculae subjected to ischaemia/reperfusion injury. Dialysate from healthy volunteers exposed to rIPC improved post-ischaemic haemodynamic recovery (40 ± 6 vs. 16 ± 2%; P < 0.01) and increased myocardial O-GlcNAc levels. Similar observations were made with dialysate from diabetic patients before exposure to rIPC (43 ± 3 vs. 16 ± 2%; P < 0.001) but no additional cardioprotection or further increase in O-GlcNAc levels was achieved by perfusion with dialysate after exposure to rIPC (44 ± 4 and 42 ± 5 vs. 43 ± 3%; P = 0.7). The glutamine:fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase (GFAT) inhibitor azaserine abolished the cardioprotective effects and the increment in myocardial O-GlcNAc levels afforded by plasma from diabetic patients and healthy volunteers treated with rIPC.
rIPC and diabetes mellitus per se influence myocardial O-GlcNAc levels through circulating humoral factors. O-GlcNAc signalling participates in mediating rIPC-induced cardioprotection and maintaining a state of inherent chronic activation of cardioprotection in diabetic myocardium, restricting it from further protection by rIPC.
Diabetes mellitus type 2; Ischaemia; Remote ischaemic preconditioning; Reperfusion injury; O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc)
The role of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)/NO signalling is well documented in late ischaemic preconditioning (IPC); however, the role of eNOS and its activation in early IPC remains controversial. This study investigates the role of eNOS in early IPC and the signalling pathways and molecular interactions that regulate eNOS activation during early IPC.
Methods and results
Rat hearts were subjected to 30-min global ischaemia and reperfusion (I/R) with or without IPC (three cycles 5-min I and 5-min R) in the presence or absence of the NOS inhibitor l-NAME, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002 (LY), and protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor H89 during IPC induction or prior endothelial permeablization. IPC improved post-ischaemic contractile function and reduced infarction compared with I/R with this being abrogated by l-NAME or endothelial permeablization. eNOSSer1176, AktSer473, and PKAThr197 phosphorylation was increased following IPC. I/R decreased eNOSSer1176 phosphorylation, whereas IPC increased it. Mass spectroscopy confirmed eNOSSer1176 phosphorylation and quantitative Western blots showed ∼24% modification of eNOSSer1176 following IPC. Immunoprecipitation demonstrated eNOS, Akt, and PKA complexation. Immunohistology showed IPC-induced Akt and PKA phosphorylation in cardiomyocytes and endothelium. With eNOS activation, IPC increased NO production as measured by electron paramagnetic resonance spin trapping and fluorescence microscopy. LY or H89 not only decreased AktSer473 or PKAThr197 phosphorylation, respectively, but also abolished IPC-induced preservation of eNOS and eNOSSer1176 phosphorylation as well as cardioprotection.
Thus, Akt- and PKA-mediated eNOS activation, with phosphorylation near the C-terminus, is critical for early IPC-induced cardioprotection, with eNOS-derived NO from the endothelium serving a critical role.
Protein phosphorylation; Signalling pathways; Reactive oxygen species; Endothelial nitric oxide synthase structure
The role of calcineurin protein phosphatase 2B (PP2B) in the pathogenesis of human hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) remains unsettled. We determined potential involvement of calcineurin in the pathogenesis of HCM caused by mutations in myozenin 2 (MYOZ2), an inhibitor of calcineurin.
Methods and results
We generated multiple lines of transgenic mice expressing either Flag-tagged wild-type (WT) (MYOZ2WT) or mutant MYOZ2S48P and MYOZ2I246M, identified in families with HCM, in the heart. To mimic the human genotype, we generated bigenic mice expressing WT and mutant MYOZ2 in the background of hemizygous endogenous MYOZ2 (Myoz2+/−). Transgene proteins constituted 15–48% of the total MYOZ2 protein in the heart. Mutant MYOZ2 mice showed molecular, cellular, and gross cardiac hypertrophy, preserved systolic function, and interstitial fibrosis. Immunofluorescence staining showed co-localization of WT and mutant MYOZ2 proteins with α-actinin at the Z disks. Electron microscopy showed disrupted and mal-aligned Z disks in the mutant mice. Cardiac calcineurin activity, determined by quantifying Rcan1.4 mRNA and protein levels, luciferase activity in triple transgenic Myoz2+/−:NFATc-Luc:MYOZ2I246M and Myoz2+/−:NFATc-Luc:MYOZ2WT mice, and NFATc transcriptional activity assay, was unchanged in the mutant transgenic mice. However, levels of phospho-ERK1/2 and JNK54/46 were altered in the transgenic mice. Likewise, lentiviral-mediated expression of the MYOZ2I246M did not affect RCAN1.4 and calcineurin (PPP3CB) protein levels.
Thus, the cardiac phenotype in HCM caused by MYOZ2 mutations might be independent of calcineurin activity in the heart. Z disk abnormalities might provide the stimulus for the induction of cardiac hypertrophy caused by MYOZ2 mutations.
Genetics; Myozenin 2; Calcineurin; Hypertrophy; Sarcomere
Reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated intracellular signalling is well described in the vasculature, yet the precise roles of ROS in paracrine signalling are not known. Studies implicate interstitial ROS hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in vascular disease, and plasma H2O2 levels in the micromolar range are detectable in animal models and humans with hypertension. Recently, H2O2 was shown to cross biological membranes of non-vascular cells via aquaporin (Aqp) water channels. Previous findings suggest that H2O2 activates NADPH oxidase (Nox) enzymes in vascular cells and apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (Ask1) in non-vascular cells. We hypothesized that extracellular H2O2 induces smooth muscle cell (SMC) hypertrophy by a mechanism involving Aqp1, Nox1, and Ask1.
Methods and results
Treatment of rat aortic SMCs (rASMC) with exogenous H2O2 resulted in a concentration-dependent increase in Nox-derived superoxide (O2•–), determined by L-012 chemiluminescence, cytochrome c and electron paramagnetic resonance. Nox1 was verified as the source of O2·– by siRNA. Aqp1 siRNA attenuated H2O2 cellular entry and H2O2-induced O2•– production. H2O2 treatment increased Ask1 activation and induced rASMC hypertrophy in a Nox1-dependent mechanism. Adenoviral-dominant-negative Ask1 attenuated H2O2-induced rASMC hypertrophy and adenoviral overexpression of Ask1 augmented it.
Our results demonstrate for the first time that extracellular H2O2, at pathophysiological concentrations, stimulates rASMC Nox1-derived O2•–, subsequent Ask1 activation and SMC hypertrophy. The data demonstrate a novel pathway by which H2O2 enters vascular cells via aquaporins and activates Nox, leading to hypertrophy, and provide multiple novel targets for combinatorial therapeutics development targeting hypertrophy and vascular disease.
NADPH oxidase; Hydrogen peroxide; Aquaporin; Ask1; Hypertrophy
Flavonoids are low-molecular weight, aromatic compounds derived from fruits, vegetables, and other plant components. The consumption of these phytochemicals has been reported to be associated with reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, attributed to their anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and anti-thrombotic actions. Flavonoids exert these effects by a number of mechanisms which include attenuation of kinase activity mediated at the cell-receptor level and/or within cells, and are characterized as broad-spectrum kinase inhibitors. Therefore, flavonoid therapy for CVD is potentially complex; the use of these compounds as molecular templates for the design of selective and potent small-molecule inhibitors may be a simpler approach to treat this condition. Flavonoids as templates for drug design are, however, poorly exploited despite the development of analogues based on the flavonol, isoflavonone, and isoflavanone subgroups. Further exploitation of this family of compounds is warranted due to a structural diversity that presents great scope for creating novel kinase inhibitors. The use of computational methodologies to define the flavonoid pharmacophore together with biological investigations of their effects on kinase activity, in appropriate cellular systems, is the current approach to characterize key structural features that will inform drug design. This focussed review highlights the potential of flavonoids to guide the design of clinically safer, more selective, and potent small-molecule inhibitors of cell signalling, applicable to anti-platelet therapy.
Flavonoids; Anti-platelet drugs; Drug design; Cardiovascular disease; Flavonoid analogues
The macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is an intracellular inhibitor of the central nervous system actions of angiotensin II on blood pressure. Considering that angiotensin II actions at the nucleus of the solitary tract are important for the maintenance of hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs), we tested if increased MIF expression in the nucleus of the solitary tract of SHR alters the baseline high blood pressure in these rats.
Methods and results
Eight-week-old SHRs or normotensive rats were microinjected with the vector AAV2-CBA-MIF into the nucleus of the solitary tract, resulting in MIF expression predominantly in neurons. Rats also underwent recordings of the mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) and heart rate (via telemetry devices implanted in the abdominal aorta), cardiac- and baroreflex function. Injections of AAV2-CBA-MIF into the nucleus of the solitary tract of SHRs produced significant decreases in the MAP, ranging from 10 to 20 mmHg, compared with age-matched SHRs that had received identical microinjections of the control vector AAV2-CBA-eGFP. This lowered MAP in SHRs was maintained through the end of the experiment at 31 days, and was associated with an improvement in baroreflex function to values observed in normotensive rats. In contrast to SHRs, similar increased MIF expression in the nucleus of the solitary tract of normotensive rats produced no changes in baseline MAP and baroreflex function.
These results indicate that an increased expression of MIF within the nucleus of the solitary tract neurons of SHRs lowers blood pressure and restores baroreflex function.
Gene transfer; Nucleus of the solitary tract; Blood pressure; Reactive oxygen species; Glutamate; Macrophage migration inhibitory factor
Smooth muscle cells (SMC) play an important role in vascular homeostasis and disease. Although adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been used as a source of contractile SMC, they suffer from limited proliferation potential and culture senescence, particularly when originating from older donors. By comparison, human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) can provide an unlimited source of functional SMC for autologous cell-based therapies and for creating models of vascular disease. Our goal was to develop an efficient strategy to derive functional, contractile SMC from hiPSC.
Methods and results
We developed a robust, stage-wise, feeder-free strategy for hiPSC differentiation into functional SMC through an intermediate stage of multipotent MSC, which could be coaxed to differentiate into fat, bone, cartilage, and muscle. At this stage, the cells were highly proliferative and displayed higher clonogenic potential and reduced senescence when compared with parental hair follicle mesenchymal stem cells. In addition, when exposed to differentiation medium, the myogenic proteins such as α-smooth muscle actin, calponin, and myosin heavy chain were significantly upregulated and displayed robust fibrillar organization, suggesting the development of a contractile phenotype. Indeed, tissue constructs prepared from these cells exhibited high levels of contractility in response to receptor- and non-receptor-mediated agonists.
We developed an efficient stage-wise strategy that enabled hiPSC differentiation into contractile SMC through an intermediate population of clonogenic and multipotent MSC. The high yield of MSC and SMC derivation suggests that our strategy may facilitate an acquisition of the large numbers of cells required for regenerative medicine or for studying vascular disease pathophysiology.
Induced pluripotent stem cells; Mesenchymal stem cells; Smooth muscle cells; 2D differentiation; Vascular contractility; Cellular senescence
The channel function of the cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2) is modulated by calmodulin (CaM). However, the involvement of CaM in aberrant Ca2+ release in diseased hearts remains unclear. Here, we investigated the pathogenic role of defective CaM binding to the RyR2 in the channel dysfunction associated with heart failure.
Methods and results
The involvement of CaM in aberrant Ca2+ release was assessed in normal and pacing-induced failing canine hearts. The apparent affinity of CaM for RyR2 was considerably lower in failing sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) compared with normal SR. Thus, the amount of CaM bound to RyR2 was markedly decreased in failing myocytes. Expression of the CaM isoform Gly-Ser-His-CaM (GSH-CaM), which has much higher binding affinity than wild-type CaM for RyR1, restored normal CaM binding to RyR2 in both SR and myocytes of failing hearts. The Ca2+ spark frequency (SpF) was markedly higher and the SR Ca2+ content was lower in failing myocytes compared with normal myocytes. The incorporation of GSH-CaM into the failing myocytes corrected the aberrant SpF and SR Ca2+ content to normal levels.
Reduced CaM binding to RyR2 seems to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of aberrant Ca2+ release in failing hearts. Correction of the reduced CaM binding to RyR2 stabilizes the RyR2 channel function and thereby restores normal Ca2+ handling and contractile function to failing hearts.
Calmodulin; Ryanodine receptor; Sarcoplasmic reticulum; Calcium; Heart failure
The molecular mechanisms controlling heart function and rhythmicity are incompletely understood. While it is widely accepted that the type 2 ryanodine receptor (Ryr2) is the major Ca2+ release channel in excitation–contraction coupling, the role of these channels in setting a consistent beating rate remains controversial. Gain-of-function RYR2 mutations in humans and genetically engineered mouse models are known to cause Ca2+ leak, arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac death. Embryonic stem-cell derived cardiomyocytes lacking Ryr2 display slower beating rates, but no supporting in vivo evidence has been presented. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that RYR2 loss-of-function would reduce heart rate and rhythmicity in vivo.
Methods and results
We generated inducible, tissue-specific Ryr2 knockout mice with acute ∼50% loss of RYR2 protein in the heart but not in other tissues. Echocardiography, working heart perfusion, and in vivo ECG telemetry demonstrated that deletion of Ryr2 was sufficient to cause bradycardia and arrhythmia. Our results also show that cardiac Ryr2 knockout mice exhibit functional and structural hallmarks of heart failure, including sudden cardiac death.
These results illustrate that the RYR2 channel plays an essential role in pacing heart rate. Moreover, we find that RYR2 loss-of-function can lead to fatal arrhythmias typically associated with gain-of-function mutations. Given that RYR2 levels can be reduced in pathological conditions, including heart failure and diabetic cardiomyopathy, we predict that RYR2 loss contributes to disease-associated bradycardia, arrhythmia, and sudden death.
Heart rate (variability); Bradycardia; Ca2+ channel; Arrhythmia (mechanisms); Excitation–contraction coupling
Mast cells participate importantly in abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) by releasing inflammatory cytokines to promote vascular cell protease expression and arterial wall remodelling. Mast cells accumulate in AAA lesions during disease progression, but the exact chemokines by which mast cells migrate to the site of vascular inflammation remain unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that mast cells use chemokine (C-C motif) receptor 2 (CCR2) for their accumulation in experimental mouse AAA lesions.
Methods and results
We generated mast cell and apolipoprotein E double-deficient (Apoe–/–KitW-sh/W-sh) mice and found that they were protected from angiotensin II (Ang II) chronic infusion-induced AAAs compared with Apoe–/– littermates. Using bone-marrow derived mast cells (BMMC) from Apoe–/– mice and CCR2 double-deficient (Apoe–/–Ccr2–/–) mice, we demonstrated that Apoe–/–KitW-sh/W-sh mice receiving BMMC from Apoe–/–Ccr2–/– mice, but not those from Apoe–/– mice, remained protected from AAA formation. Adoptive transfer of BMMC from Apoe–/– mice into Apoe–/–KitW-sh/W-sh mice also increased lesion content of macrophages, T cells, and MHC class II-positive cells; there was also increased apoptosis, angiogenesis, cell proliferation, elastin fragmentation, and medial smooth muscle cell loss. In contrast, adoptive transfer of BMMC from Apoe–/–Ccr2–/– mice into Apoe–/–KitW-sh/W-sh mice did not affect these variables.
The increased AAA formation and associated lesion characteristics in Apoe–/–KitW–sh/W–sh mice after receiving BMMC from Apoe–/– mice, but not from Apoe–/–Ccr2–/– mice, suggests that mast cells use CCR2 as the chemokine receptor for their recruitment in Ang II-induced mouse AAA lesions.
Mast cell; Abdominal aortic aneurysm; Ang II; MCP-1; CCR2
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is characterized by extensive aortic wall matrix degradation that contributes to the remodelling and eventual rupture of the arterial wall. Elastinolytic cathepsin S (Cat S) is highly expressed in human aneurysmal lesions, but whether it contributes to the pathogenesis of AAA remains unknown.
Methods and results
AAAs were induced in apolipoprotein E (ApoE) and Cat S compound mutant (Apoe–/–Ctss–/–) mice and in ApoE-deficient Cat S wild-type littermates (Apoe–/–Ctss+/+) by chronic angiotensin II infusion, and AAA lesions were analysed after 28 days. We found that Cat S expression increased significantly in mouse AAA lesions. The AAA incidence in Apoe–/–Ctss–/– mice was much lower than that in Apoe–/–Ctss+/+ mice (10 vs. 80%). Cat S deficiency significantly reduced external and luminal abdominal aortic diameters, medial elastin fragmentation, and adventitia collagen content. Cat S deficiency reduced aortic lesion expression and the activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, MMP-9, and Cat K, but not the activity of other major cathepsins, such as Cat B and Cat L. Absence of Cat S significantly reduced AAA lesion media smooth muscle cell (SMC) apoptosis, lesion adventitia microvessel content, and inflammatory cell accumulation and proliferation. In vitro studies proved that Cat S helps promote SMC apoptosis, angiogenesis, monocyte and T-cell transmigration, and T-cell proliferation—all of which are essential to AAA pathogenesis.
These data provide direct evidence that Cat S plays an important role in AAA formation and suggest that Cat S is a new therapeutic target for human AAA.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm; Cathepsin S; Extracellular matrix; Inflammation
Existing evidence suggests that amyloid-β precursor protein (APP) causes endothelial dysfunction and contributes to pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In the present study, experiments were designed to: (1) determine the mechanisms underlying endothelial dysfunction and (2) define the effects of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta (PPARδ) ligand on endothelial function in transgenic Tg2576 mice overexpressing mutated human APP.
Methods and results
Confocal microscopy and western blot analyses of wild-type mice aortas provided evidence that APP protein is mainly present in endothelial cells. Overexpression of APP significantly impaired endothelium-dependent relaxations to acetylcholine and phosphorylation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase at Ser1177 in aortas. HPLC analysis revealed that tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) levels were reduced in Tg2576 mice aortas. This was caused by increased oxidation of BH4 and reduced expression and activity of GTP-cyclohydrolase I. Furthermore, gp91phox protein expression and superoxide anion production were increased in aortas of Tg2576 mice. This augmented superoxide formation was completely prevented by the NADPH oxidase inhibitor VAS2870. Expression of copper-/zinc-superoxide dismutase (Cu/ZnSOD) and extracellular SOD was downregulated. Treatment with PPARδ ligand GW501516 (2 mg/kg/day) for 14 days significantly increased BH4 bioavailability and improved endothelium-dependent relaxations in Tg2576 mice aortas. GW501516 also normalized protein expression of gp91phox and SODs, thereby reducing production of superoxide anion in the aortas.
Our results suggest that in APP transgenic mice loss of nitric oxide and increased oxidative stress are the major causes of endothelial dysfunction. The vascular protective effects of GW501516 in Tg2576 mice appear to be critically dependent on prevention of superoxide anion production.
Amyloid-β precursor protein; Endothelial function; Superoxide anion; Tetrahydrobiopterin; Atherosclerosis
From the 1920s, early cardiac development has been studied in chick and, later, in mouse embryos in order to understand the first cell fate decisions that drive specification and determination of the endocardium, myocardium, and epicardium. More recently, mouse and human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have demonstrated faithful recapitulation of early cardiogenesis and have contributed significantly to this research over the past few decades. Derived almost 15 years ago, human ESCs have provided a unique developmental model for understanding the genetic and epigenetic regulation of early human cardiogenesis. Here, we review the biological concepts underlying cell fate decisions during early cardiogenesis in model organisms and ESCs. We draw upon both pioneering and recent studies and highlight the continued role for in vitro stem cells in cardiac developmental biology.
Cardiac development; Cardiac cell lineages; Embryonic heart
Age-related diastolic dysfunction has been attributed to an increased passive stiffness, which is regulated by extracellular matrix (ECM). We recently showed that matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, an ECM mediator, increases in the left ventricle (LV) with age. The aim of this study, accordingly, was to determine the role of MMP-9 in cardiac ageing.
Methods and results
We compared LV function in young (6–9 months), middle-aged (12–15 months), old (18–24 months) and senescent (26–34 months) wild-type (WT) and MMP-9 null mice (n ≥ 12/group). All groups had similar fractional shortenings and aortic peak velocities, indicating that systolic function was not altered by ageing or MMP-9 deletion. The mitral ratios of early to late diastolic filling velocities were reduced in old and senescent WT compared with young controls, and this reduction was attenuated in MMP-9 null mice. Concomitantly, the increase in LV collagen content was reduced in MMP-9 null mice (n = 5-6/group). To dissect the mechanisms of these changes, we evaluated the mRNA expression levels of 84 ECM and adhesion molecules by real-time qPCR (n = 6/group). The expression of pro-fibrotic periostin and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) increased with senescence, as did transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-induced protein levels and Smad signalling, and these increases were blunted by MMP-9 deletion. In senescence, MMP-9 deletion also resulted in a compensatory increase in MMP-8.
MMP-9 deletion attenuates the age-related decline in diastolic function, in part by reducing TGF-β signalling-induced periostin and CTGF expression and increasing MMP-8 expression to regulate myocardial collagen turnover and deposition.
Ageing; Collagen; Diastolic function; Matrix metalloproteinase; Extracellular matrix
It has been appreciated over the past two decades that arterial remodelling, in addition to intimal hyperplasia, contributes significantly to the degree of restenosis that develops following revascularization procedures. Remodelling appears to be an adventitia-based process that is contributed to by multiple factors including cytokines and growth factors that regulate extracellular matrix or phenotypic transformation of vascular cells including myofibroblasts. In this review, we summarize the currently available information from animal models as well as clinical investigations regarding arterial remodelling. The factors that contribute to this process are presented with an emphasis on potential therapeutic methods to enhance favourable remodelling and prevent restenosis.
Restenosis; Constrictive remodelling; Adaptive remodelling; ECM; EEL
The suppressors of cytokine signalling (SOCS) are identified inhibitors of cytokine and growth factor signalling that act via the Janus kinase (JAK) signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) pathways. Aberrant JAK/STAT signalling promotes progression from hypertrophy to heart failure. Little information is available concerning the role of SOCS in the transition from hypertrophy to heart failure. To this aim, we investigated the effects of SOCS1 overexpression obtained by in vivo adeno-associated gene transfer using an aortopulmonary cross-clamping technique in a chronic pressure-overload cardiac rat model.
Methods and results
Rats were randomized into four groups: sham-operated (n = 18), aortic banding (AB) (n = 18), AB + viral vector encoding for haemoagglutinin (AB + HA, n = 16), and AB + viral vector encoding for SOCS1 (AB + SOCS1, n = 18). Echocardiographic and haemodynamic measurements were performed 15 weeks after banding. While SOCS3 was upregulated during the hypertrophic phase, SOCS1 transcript levels increased significantly between 15 and 20 weeks. Remodelling was markedly worse in AB + SOCS1, showed larger left ventricular internal dimensions (+16%), higher end-diastolic pressures (+57%) and wall stress (+45%), and reduced fractional shortening (−32%) compared with AB + HA; apoptotic rate was increased threefold and the gp130 pathway was inhibited. Ex vivo experiments showed that mechanical stretch upregulated SOCS1 expression, which was in turn attenuated by tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) inhibition.
Enhanced SOCS1 myocardial signalling is associated with accelerated transition from hypertrophy to failure in an established model of pressure overload. SOCS1 may represent an attractive target for the prevention of heart failure progression.
SOCS; Gene therapy; Cardiac hypertrophy; Heart failure
Guanylyl cyclase-cyclic guanosine monophosphate signalling plays an important role in endogenous cardioprotective signalling. The aim was to assess the potential of direct pharmacological activation and stimulation of soluble guanylyl cyclase, targeting different redox states of the enzyme, to limit myocardial necrosis during early reperfusion.
Methods and results
Rat isolated hearts were subjected to reversible left coronary artery occlusion (ischaemia-reperfusion) and infarct size was assessed by the tetrazolium staining technique. Administration during early reperfusion of BAY 41-2272, an NO-independent, haem-dependent stimulator of soluble guanylyl cyclase targeting the reduced state, or BAY 60-2770, an NO-independent, haem-independent activator targeting the oxidized state, significantly limited infarct size. Inhibition of NO synthesis did not abrogate this protection, but exogenous perfusion of NO with BAY 41-2272 produced a synergistic effect. The haem site oxidiser, ODQ abrogated the protection afforded by BAY 41-2272 but potentiated the protection afforded by BAY 60-2770. Targeting both the reduced and oxidized forms of sGC together did not afford additive protection.
Targeting either reduced or oxidized forms of sGC during early reperfusion affords cardioprotection, providing support for the concept that direct sGC manipulation at reperfusion has therapeutic potential for the management of acute myocardial infarction.
Ischaemia-reperfusion; cGMP; NO; sGC