skip to main content

Title: Substrate Stiffness and Stretch Regulate Profibrotic Mechanosignaling in Pulmonary Arterial Adventitial Fibroblasts
Pulmonary arterial adventitial fibroblasts (PAAFs) are important regulators of fibrotic vascular remodeling during the progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a disease that currently has no effective anti-fibrotic treatments. We conducted in-vitro experiments in PAAFs cultured on hydrogels attached to custom-made equibiaxial stretchers at 10% stretch and substrate stiffnesses representing the mechanical conditions of mild and severe stages of PAH. The expression of collagens α(1)I and α(1)III and elastin messenger RNAs (Col1a1, Col3a1, Eln) were upregulated by increased stretch and substrate stiffness, while lysyl oxidase-like 1 and α-smooth muscle actin messenger RNAs (Loxl1, Acta2) were only significantly upregulated when the cells were grown on matrices with an elevated stiffness representative of mild PAH but not on a stiffness representative of severe PAH. Fibronectin messenger RNA (Fn1) levels were significantly induced by increased substrate stiffness and transiently upregulated by stretch at 4 h, but was not significantly altered by stretch at 24 h. We modified our published computational network model of the signaling pathways that regulate profibrotic gene expression in PAAFs to allow for differential regulation of mechanically-sensitive nodes by stretch and stiffness. When the model was modified so that stiffness activated integrin β3, the Macrophage Stimulating 1 or 2 (MST1\2) more » kinases, angiotensin II (Ang II), transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), and syndecan-4, and stretch-regulated integrin β3, MST1\2, Ang II, and the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel, the model correctly predicted the upregulation of all six genes by increased stiffness and the observed responses to stretch in five out of six genes, although it could not replicate the non-monotonic effects of stiffness on Loxl1 and Acta2 expression. Blocking Ang II Receptor Type 1 (AT1R) with losartan in-vitro uncovered an interaction between the effects of stretch and stiffness and angiotensin-independent activation of Fn1 expression by stretch in PAAFs grown on 3-kPa matrices. This novel combination of in-vitro and in-silico models of PAAF profibrotic cell signaling in response to altered mechanical conditions may help identify regulators of vascular adventitial remodeling due to changes in stretch and matrix stiffness that occur during the progression of PAH in-vivo. « less
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Use of electronic cigarettes is rapidly increasing among youth and young adults, but little is known regarding the long-term cardiopulmonary health impacts of these nicotine-containing devices. Our group has previously demonstrated that chronic, inhaled nicotine induces pulmonary hypertension (PH) and right ventricular (RV) remodeling in mice. These changes were associated with upregulated RV angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) have been shown to reverse cigarette smoking-induced PH in rats. ACE inhibitor and ARB use in a large retrospective cohort of patients with PH is associated with improved survival. Here, we utilized losartan (an ARB specific for angiotensin II type 1 receptor) to further explore nicotine-induced PH. Male C57BL/6 mice received nicotine vapor for 12 h/day, and exposure was assessed using serum cotinine to achieve levels comparable to human smokers or electronic cigarette users. Mice were exposed to nicotine for 8 wk and a subset was treated with losartan via an osmotic minipump. Cardiac function was assessed using echocardiography and catheterization. Although nicotine exposure increased angiotensin II in the RV and lung, this finding was nonsignificant. Chronic, inhaled nicotine significantly increased RV systolic pressure and RV free wall thickness versus air control. These parameters were significantly lower in mice receiving bothmore »nicotine and losartan. Nicotine significantly increased RV internal diameter, with no differences seen between the nicotine and nicotine-losartan group. Neither nicotine nor losartan affected left ventricular structure or function. These findings provide the first evidence that antagonism of the angiotensin II type 1 receptor can ameliorate chronic, inhaled nicotine-induced PH and RV remodeling. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Chronic, inhaled nicotine causes pulmonary hypertension and right ventricular remodeling in mice. Treatment with losartan, an angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonist, ameliorates nicotine-induced pulmonary hypertension and right ventricular remodeling. This novel finding provides preclinical evidence for the use of renin-angiotensin system-based therapies in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, particularly in patients with a history of tobacco-product use.« less
  2. Although pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) leads to right ventricle (RV) hypertrophy and structural remodeling, the relative contributions of changes in myocardial geometric and mechanical properties to systolic and diastolic chamber dysfunction and their time courses remain unknown. Using measurements of RV hemodynamic and morphological changes over 10 wk in a male rat model of PAH and a mathematical model of RV mechanics, we discriminated the contributions of RV geometric remodeling and alterations of myocardial material properties to changes in systolic and diastolic chamber function. Significant and rapid RV hypertrophic wall thickening was sufficient to stabilize ejection fraction in response to increased pulmonary arterial pressure by week 4 without significant changes in systolic myofilament activation. After week 4, RV end-diastolic pressure increased significantly with no corresponding changes in end-diastolic volume. Significant RV diastolic chamber stiffening by week 5 was not explained by RV hypertrophy. Instead, model analysis showed that the increases in RV end-diastolic chamber stiffness were entirely attributable to increased resting myocardial material stiffness that was not associated with significant myocardial fibrosis or changes in myocardial collagen content or type. These findings suggest that whereas systolic volume in this model of RV pressure overload is stabilized by early RV hypertrophy,more »diastolic dilation is prevented by subsequent resting myocardial stiffening. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Using a novel combination of hemodynamic and morphological measurements over 10 wk in a male rat model of PAH and a mathematical model of RV mechanics, we found that compensated systolic function was almost entirely explained by RV hypertrophy, but subsequently altered RV end-diastolic mechanics were primarily explained by passive myocardial stiffening that was not associated with significant collagen extracellular matrix accumulation.« less
  3. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a devastating lung disease that progressively and irreversibly alters the lung parenchyma, eventually leading to respiratory failure. The study of this disease has been historically challenging due to the myriad of complex processes that contribute to fibrogenesis and the inherent difficulty in accurately recreating the human pulmonary environment in vitro . Here, we describe a poly(ethylene glycol) PEG hydrogel-based three-dimensional model for the co-culture of primary murine pulmonary fibroblasts and alveolar epithelial cells that reproduces the micro-architecture, cell placement, and mechanical properties of healthy and fibrotic lung tissue. Co-cultured cells retained normal levels of viability up to at least three weeks and displayed differentiation patterns observed in vivo during IPF progression. Interrogation of protein and gene expression within this model showed that myofibroblast activation required both extracellular mechanical cues and the presence of alveolar epithelial cells. Differences in gene expression indicated that cellular co-culture induced TGF-β signaling and proliferative gene expression, while microenvironmental stiffness upregulated the expression of genes related to cell–ECM interactions. This biomaterial-based cell culture system serves as a significant step forward in the accurate recapitulation of human lung tissue in vitro and highlights the need to incorporate multiple factors that work togethermore »synergistically in vivo into models of lung biology of health and disease.« less
  4. Elastin is a primary structural protein in the arterial wall that contributes to vascular mechanical properties and degrades with aging. Aging is associated with arterial stiffening and an increase in blood pressure. There is evidence that arterial aging follows different timelines with sex. Our objective was to investigate how elastin content affects arterial remodeling in male and female mice with aging. We used male and female wild-type ( Eln +/+ ) and elastin heterozygous ( Eln +/− ) mice at 6, 12, and 24 mo of age and measured their blood pressure and arterial morphology, wall structure, protein content, circumferential stress, stretch ratio, and stiffness. Two arteries were used with varying contents of elastin: the left common carotid and ascending aorta. We show that Eln +/− arteries start at a different homeostatic set point for circumferential wall stress, stretch, and material stiffness but show similar increases with aging to Eln +/+ mice. With aging, structural stiffness is greatly increased, while material stiffness and circumferential stress are only slightly increased, highlighting the importance of maintaining these homeostatic values. Circumferential stretch shows the smallest change with age and may be important for controlling cellular phenotype. Independent sex differences are mostly associated withmore »males being larger than females; however, many of the measured factors show age × sex and/or genotype × sex interactions, indicating that males and females follow different cardiovascular remodeling timelines with aging and are differentially affected by reduced elastin content. NEW & NOTEWORTHY A comprehensive study on arterial mechanical behavior as a function of elastin content, aging, and sex in mice. Elastin haploinsufficient arteries start at a different homeostatic set point for mechanical parameters such as circumferential stress, stretch, and material stiffness. Structural stiffness of the arterial wall greatly increases with aging, as expected, but there are interactions between sex and aging for most of the mechanical parameters that are important to consider in future work.« less
  5. Endothelial mechanobiology is a key consideration in the progression of vascular dysfunction, including atherosclerosis. However mechanistic connections between the clinically associated physical stimuli, vessel stiffness and shear stress, and how they interact to modulate plaque progression remain incompletely characterized. Vessel-chip systems are excellent candidates for modeling vascular mechanobiology as they may be engineered from the ground up, guided by the mechanical parameters present in human arteries and veins, to recapitulate key features of the vasculature. Here, we report extensive validation of a vessel-chip model of endothelial yes-associated protein (YAP) mechanobiology, a protein sensitive to both matrix stiffness and shearing forces and, importantly, implicated in atherosclerotic progression. Our model captures the established endothelial mechanoresponse, with endothelial alignment, elongation, reduction of adhesion molecules, and YAP cytoplasmic retention under high laminar shear. Conversely, we observed disturbed morphology, inflammation, and nuclear partitioning under low, high, and high oscillatory shear. Examining targets of YAP transcriptional co-activation, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is strongly downregulated by high laminar shear, whereas it is strongly upregulated by low shear or oscillatory flow. Ankyrin repeat domain 1 (ANKRD1) is only upregulated by high oscillatory shear. Verteporfin inhibition of YAP reduced the expression of CTGF but did not affect ANKRD1.more »Lastly, substrate stiffness modulated the endothelial shear mechanoresponse. Under high shear, softer substrates showed the lowest nuclear localization of YAP whereas stiffer substrates increased nuclear localization. Low shear strongly increased nuclear localization of YAP across stiffnesses. Together, we have validated a model of endothelial mechanobiology and describe a clinically relevant biological connection between matrix stiffness, shear stress, and endothelial activation via YAP mechanobiology.« less