Differences in genetic signaling, and not mechanical properties of the wall, are linked to ascending aortic aneurysms in fibulin-4 knockout mice.
ABSTRACT: Fibulin-4 is an extracellular matrix protein that is essential for proper assembly of arterial elastic fibers. Mutations in fibulin-4 cause cutis laxa with thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAAs). Sixty percent of TAAs occur in the ascending aorta (AA). Newborn mice lacking fibulin-4 (Fbln4(-/-)) have aneurysms in the AA, but narrowing in the descending aorta (DA), and are a unique model to investigate locational differences in aneurysm susceptibility. We measured mechanical behavior and gene expression of AA and DA segments in newborn Fbln4(-/-) and Fbln4(+/+) mice. Fbln4(-/-) AA has increased diameters compared with Fbln4(+/+) AA and Fbln4(-/-) DA at most applied pressures, confirming genotypic and locational specificity of the aneurysm phenotype. When diameter compliance and tangent modulus were calculated from the mechanical data, we found few significant differences between genotypes, suggesting that the mechanical response to incremental diameter changes is similar, despite the fragmented elastic fibers in Fbln4(-/-) aortas. Fbln4(-/-) aortas showed a trend toward increased circumferential stretch, which may be transmitted to smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the wall. Gene expression data suggest activation of pathways for SMC proliferation and inflammation in Fbln4(-/-) aortas compared with Fbln4(+/+). Additional genes in both pathways, as well as matrix metalloprotease-8 (Mmp8), are upregulated specifically in Fbln4(-/-) AA compared with Fbln4(+/+) AA and Fbln4(-/-) DA. Mmp8 is a neutrophil collagenase that targets type 1 collagen, and upregulation may be necessary to allow diameter expansion in Fbln4(-/-) AA. Our results provide molecular and mechanical targets for further investigation in aneurysm pathogenesis.
Project description:Loss of fibulin-4 during embryogenesis results in perinatal lethality because of aneurysm rupture, and defective elastic fiber assembly has been proposed as an underlying cause for the aneurysm phenotype. However, aneurysms are never seen in mice deficient for elastin, or for fibulin-5, which absence also leads to compromised elastic fibers.We sought to determine the mechanism of aneurysm development in the absence of fibulin-4 and establish the role of fibulin-4 in aortic development.We generated germline and smooth muscle cell (SMC)-specific deletion of the fibulin-4 gene in mice (Fbln4(GKO) and Fbln4(SMKO), respectively). Fbln4(GKO) and Fbln4(SMKO) aortic walls fail to fully differentiate, exhibiting reduced expression of SM-specific contractile genes and focal proliferation of SMCs accompanied by degenerative changes of the medial wall. Marked upregulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 signaling pathway was observed in the aneurysmal wall of Fbln4(GKO) and Fbln4(SMKO) mice and both mutants developed aneurysm predominantly in the ascending thoracic aorta. In vitro, Fbln4(GKO) SMCs exhibit an immature SMC phenotype with a marked reduction of SM-myosin heavy chain and increased proliferative capacity.The vascular phenotype in Fbln4 mutant mice is remarkably similar to a subset of human thoracic aortic aneurysms caused by mutations in SMC contractile genes. Our study provides a potential link between the intrinsic properties of SMCs and aneurysm progression in vivo and supports the dual role of fibulin-4 in the formation of elastic fibers as well as terminal differentiation and maturation of SMCs in the aortic wall.
Project description:RATIONALE:Abnormal mechanosensing of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) resulting from the defective elastin-contractile units has been suggested to drive the formation of thoracic aortic aneurysms; however, the precise molecular mechanism has not been elucidated. OBJECTIVE:The aim of this study was to identify the crucial mediator(s) involved in abnormal mechanosensing and propagation of biochemical signals during the aneurysm formation and to establish a basis for a novel therapeutic strategy. METHODS AND RESULTS:We used a mouse model of postnatal ascending aortic aneurysms ( Fbln4SMKO; termed SMKO [SMC-specific knockout]), in which deletion of Fbln4 (fibulin-4) leads to disruption of the elastin-contractile units caused by a loss of elastic lamina-SMC connections. In this mouse, upregulation of Egr1 (early growth response 1) and angiotensin-converting enzyme leads to activation of Ang II (angiotensin II) signaling. Here, we showed that the matricellular protein, Thbs1 (thrombospondin-1), was highly upregulated in SMKO ascending aortas and in human thoracic aortic aneurysms. Thbs1 was induced by mechanical stretch and Ang II in SMCs, for which Egr1 was required, and reduction of Fbln4 sensitized the cells to these stimuli and led to higher expression of Egr1 and Thbs1. Deletion of Thbs1 in SMKO mice prevented the aneurysm formation in ?80% of DKO (SMKO;Thbs1 knockout) animals and suppressed Ssh1 (slingshot-1) and cofilin dephosphorylation, leading to the formation of normal actin filaments. Furthermore, elastic lamina-SMC connections were restored in DKO aortas, and mechanical testing showed that structural and material properties of DKO aortas were markedly improved. CONCLUSIONS:Thbs1 is a critical component of mechanotransduction, as well as a modulator of elastic fiber organization. Maladaptive upregulation of Thbs1 results in disruption of elastin-contractile units and dysregulation of actin cytoskeletal remodeling, contributing to the development of ascending aortic aneurysms in vivo. Thbs1 may serve as a potential therapeutic target for treating thoracic aortic aneurysms.
Project description:Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and the extracellular matrix (ECM) are intimately associated in the aortic wall. Fbln4(SMKO) mice with an SMC-specific deletion of the Fbln4 gene, which encodes the vascular ECM component fibulin-4, develop ascending aortic aneurysms that have increased abundance of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE); inhibiting angiotensin II signaling within the first month of life prevents aneurysm development. We used comparative proteomics analysis of Fbln4(SMKO) aortas from postnatal day (P) 1 to P30 mice to identify key molecules involved in aneurysm initiation and expansion. At P14, the actin depolymerizing factor cofilin was dephosphorylated and thus activated, and at P7, the abundance of slingshot-1 (SSH1) phosphatase, an activator of cofilin, was increased, leading to actin cytoskeletal remodeling. Also, by P7, biomechanical changes and underdeveloped elastic lamina-SMC connections were evident, and the abundance of early growth response 1 (Egr1), a mechanosensitive transcription factor that stimulates ACE expression, was increased, which was before the increases in ACE abundance and cofilin activation. Postnatal deletion of Fbln4 in SMCs at P7 prevented cofilin activation and aneurysm formation, suggesting that these processes required disruption of elastic lamina-SMC connections. Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) is involved in the angiotensin II-mediated activation of SSH1, and administration of PI3K inhibitors from P7 to P30 decreased SSH1 abundance and prevented aneurysms. These results suggest that aneurysm formation arises from abnormal mechanosensing of SMCs resulting from the loss of elastic lamina-SMC connections and from increased SSH1 and cofilin activity, which may be potential therapeutic targets for treating ascending aortic aneurysms.
Project description:Aortic aneurysms are life-threatening and often associated with defects in connective tissues and mutations in smooth muscle cell (SMC) contractile proteins. Despite recent advances in understanding altered signaling in aneurysms of Marfan syndrome, the underlying mechanisms and options for pharmacological treatment for other forms of aneurysms are still under investigation. We previously showed in mice that deficiency in the fibulin-4 gene in vascular SMCs (Fbln4(SMKO)) leads to loss of the SMC contractile phenotype, hyperproliferation, and ascending aortic aneurysms. We report that abnormal up-regulation of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) in SMCs and subsequent activation of angiotensin II (AngII) signaling are involved in the onset of aortic aneurysms in Fbln4(SMKO) mice. In this model, aneurysm formation was completely prevented by inhibition of the AngII pathway with losartan or captopril within a narrow therapeutic window during the first month of life, even though the altered mechanical properties of blood vessel walls were not reversed by the pharmacological treatment. The therapeutic effects of losartan in Fbln4(SMKO) mice do not require the AngII receptor type 2 (Agtr2) but likely require both type 1a (Agtr1a) and 1b (Agtr1b) receptors. The results indicate that fibulin-4 is a vascular matrix component required for regulation of local angiotensin signaling and development and maintenance of the SMC phenotype.
Project description:Fibulin-4 is an extracellular matrix protein essential for elastic fiber formation. Frameshift and missense mutations in the fibulin-4 gene (EFEMP2/FBLN4) cause autosomal recessive cutis laxa (ARCL) 1B, characterized by loose skin, aortic aneurysm, arterial tortuosity, lung emphysema, and skeletal abnormalities. Homozygous missense mutations in FBLN4 are a prevalent cause of ARCL 1B. Here we generated a knock-in mouse strain bearing a recurrent fibulin-4 E57K homozygous missense mutation. The mutant mice survived into adulthood and displayed abnormalities in multiple organ systems, including loose skin, bent forelimb, aortic aneurysm, tortuous artery, and pulmonary emphysema. Biochemical studies of dermal fibroblasts showed that fibulin-4 E57K mutant protein was produced but was prone to dimer formation and inefficiently secreted, thereby triggering an endoplasmic reticulum stress response. Immunohistochemistry detected a low level of fibulin-4 E57K protein in the knock-in skin along with altered expression of selected elastic fiber components. Processing of a precursor to mature lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking of elastin and collagen, was compromised. The knock-in skin had a reduced level of desmosine, an elastin-specific cross-link compound, and ultrastructurally abnormal elastic fibers. Surprisingly, structurally aberrant collagen fibrils and altered organization into fibers were characteristics of the knock-in dermis and forelimb tendons. Type I collagen extracted from the knock-in skin had decreased amounts of covalent intermolecular cross-links, which could contribute to the collagen fibril abnormalities. Our studies provide the first evidence that fibulin-4 plays a role in regulating collagen fibril assembly and offer a preclinical platform for developing treatments for ARCL 1B.
Project description:Aim:Thoracic aortic aneurysms are a life-threatening condition often diagnosed too late. To discover novel robust biomarkers, we aimed to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying aneurysm formation. Methods and results:In Fibulin-4R/R mice, the extracellular matrix protein Fibulin-4 is 4-fold reduced, resulting in progressive ascending aneurysm formation and early death around 3 months of age. We performed proteomics and genomics studies on Fibulin-4R/R mouse aortas. Intriguingly, we observed alterations in mitochondrial protein composition in Fibulin-4R/R aortas. Consistently, functional studies in Fibulin-4R/R vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) revealed lower oxygen consumption rates, but increased acidification rates. Yet, mitochondria in Fibulin-4R/R VSMCs showed no aberrant cytoplasmic localization. We found similar reduced mitochondrial respiration in Tgfbr-1M318R/+ VSMCs, a mouse model for Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS). Interestingly, also human fibroblasts from Marfan (FBN1) and LDS (TGFBR2 and SMAD3) patients showed lower oxygen consumption. While individual mitochondrial Complexes I-V activities were unaltered in Fibulin-4R/R heart and muscle, these tissues showed similar decreased oxygen consumption. Furthermore, aortas of aneurysmal Fibulin-4R/R mice displayed increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. Consistent with these findings, gene expression analyses revealed dysregulation of metabolic pathways. Accordingly, blood ketone levels of Fibulin-4R/R mice were reduced and liver fatty acids were decreased, while liver glycogen was increased, indicating dysregulated metabolism at the organismal level. As predicted by gene expression analysis, the activity of PGC1?, a key regulator between mitochondrial function and organismal metabolism, was downregulated in Fibulin-4R/R VSMCs. Increased TGF? reduced PGC1? levels, indicating involvement of TGF? signalling in PGC1? regulation. Activation of PGC1? restored the decreased oxygen consumption in Fibulin-4R/R VSMCs and improved their reduced growth potential, emphasizing the importance of this key regulator. Conclusion:Our data indicate altered mitochondrial function and metabolic dysregulation, leading to increased ROS levels and altered energy production, as a novel mechanism, which may contribute to thoracic aortic aneurysm formation.
Project description:Fibulin-4 is a member of the fibulin family, a group of extracellular matrix proteins prominently expressed in medial layers of large veins and arteries. Involvement of the FBLN4 gene in cardiovascular pathology was shown in a murine model and in three patients affected with cutis laxa in association with systemic involvement. To elucidate the contribution of FBLN4 in human disease, we investigated two cohorts of patients. Direct sequencing of 17 patients with cutis laxa revealed no FBLN4 mutations. In a second group of 22 patients presenting with arterial tortuosity, stenosis and aneurysms, FBLN4 mutations were identified in three patients, two homozygous missense mutations (p.Glu126Lys and p.Ala397Thr) and compound heterozygosity for missense mutation p.Glu126Val and frameshift mutation c.577delC. Immunoblotting analysis showed a decreased amount of fibulin-4 protein in the fibroblast culture media of two patients, a finding sustained by diminished fibulin-4 in the extracellular matrix of the aortic wall on immunohistochemistry. pSmad2 and CTGF immunostaining of aortic and lung tissue revealed an increase in transforming growth factor (TGF)beta signaling. This was confirmed by pSmad2 immunoblotting of fibroblast cultures. In conclusion, patients with recessive FBLN4 mutations are predominantly characterized by aortic aneurysms, arterial tortuosity and stenosis. This confirms the important role of fibulin-4 in vascular elastic fiber assembly. Furthermore, we provide the first evidence for the involvement of altered TGFbeta signaling in the pathogenesis of FBLN4 mutations in humans.
Project description:Medial degeneration is a key feature of aneurysm disease and aortic dissection. In a murine aneurysm model we investigated the structural and functional characteristics of aortic wall degeneration in adult fibulin-4 deficient mice and the potential therapeutic role of the angiotensin (Ang) II type 1 (AT(1)) receptor antagonist losartan in preventing aortic media degeneration. Adult mice with 2-fold (heterozygous Fibulin-4(+/R)) and 4-fold (homozygous Fibulin-4(R/R)) reduced expression of fibulin-4 displayed the histological features of cystic media degeneration as found in patients with aneurysm or dissection, including elastin fiber fragmentation, loss of smooth muscle cells, and deposition of ground substance in the extracellular matrix of the aortic media. The aortic contractile capacity, determined by isometric force measurements, was diminished, and was associated with dysregulation of contractile genes as shown by aortic transcriptome analysis. These structural and functional alterations were accompanied by upregulation of TGF-? signaling in aortas from fibulin-4 deficient mice, as identified by genome-scaled network analysis as well as by immunohistochemical staining for phosphorylated Smad2, an intracellular mediator of TGF-?. Tissue levels of Ang II, a regulator of TGF-? signaling, were increased. Prenatal treatment with the AT(1) receptor antagonist losartan, which blunts TGF-? signaling, prevented elastic fiber fragmentation in the aortic media of newborn Fibulin-4(R/R) mice. Postnatal losartan treatment reduced haemodynamic stress and improved lifespan of homozygous knockdown fibulin-4 animals, but did not affect aortic vessel wall structure. In conclusion, the AT(1) receptor blocker losartan can prevent aortic media degeneration in a non-Marfan syndrome aneurysm mouse model. In established aortic aneurysms, losartan does not affect aortic architecture, but does improve survival. These findings may extend the potential therapeutic application of inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system to the preventive treatment of aneurysm disease.
Project description:The fibulin family of extracellular matrix/matricellular proteins is composed of long fibulins (fibulin-1, -2, -6) and short fibulins (fibulin-3, -4, -5, -7) and is involved in protein-protein interaction with the components of basement membrane and extracellular matrix proteins. Fibulin-1, -2, -3, -4, and -5 bind the monomeric form of elastin (tropoelastin) in vitro and fibulin-2, -3, -4, and -5 are shown to be involved in various aspects of elastic fiber development in vivo. In particular, fibulin-4 and -5 are critical molecules for elastic fiber assembly and play a non-redundant role during elastic fiber formation. Despite manifestation of systemic elastic fiber defects in all elastogenic tissues, fibulin-5 null (Fbln5(-/-)) mice have a normal lifespan. In contrast, fibulin-4 null (Fbln4(-/-)) mice die during the perinatal period due to rupture of aortic aneurysms, indicating differential functions of fibulin-4 and fibulin-5 in normal development. In this review, we will update biochemical characterization of fibulin-4 and fibulin-5 and discuss their roles in elastogenesis and outside of elastogenesis based on knowledge obtained from loss-of-function studies in mouse and in human patients with FBLN4 or FBLN5 mutations. Finally, we will evaluate therapeutic options for matrix-related diseases.
Project description:Great arteries, as well as lungs and skin, contain elastic fibers as important components to maintain their physiological functions. Although recent studies have revealed that a glycoprotein fibulin-4 (FBLN4) is indispensable for the assembly of mature elastic fibers, it remains to be elucidated how FBLN4 takes part in elastogenesis. Here, we report a dose-dependent requirement for FBLN4 in the development of the elastic fibers in arteries, and a specific role of FBLN4 in recruiting the elastin-cross-linking enzyme, lysyl oxidase (LOX). Reduced expression of Fbln4, which was achieved with a smooth muscle-specific Cre-mediated gene deletion, caused arterial stiffness. Electron-microscopic examination revealed disorganized thick elastic laminae with aberrant deposition of elastin. Aneurysmal dilation of the ascending aorta was found when the Fbln4 expression level was reduced to an even lower level, whereas systemic Fbln4 null mice died perinatally from rupture of the diaphragm. We also found a specific interaction between FBLN4 and the propeptide of LOX, which efficiently promotes assembly of LOX onto tropoelastin. These data suggest a mechanism of elastogenesis, in which a sufficient amount of FBLN4 is essential for tethering LOX to tropoelastin to facilitate cross-linking.