PCSK6 Is a Key Protease in the Control of Smooth Muscle Cell Function in Vascular Remodeling.
Genomic profiling of human vascular cells identifies TWIST1 as a causal gene for common vascular diseases.
2020; 16 (1): e1008538
Rationale: Proprotein convertase subtilisins/kexins (PCSKs) are a protease family with unknown functions in vasculature. Previously, we demonstrated PCSK6 upregulation in human atherosclerotic plaques associated with smooth muscle cells (SMCs), inflammation, extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling and mitogens. Objective: Here, we applied a systems biology approach to gain deeper insights into the PCSK6 role in normal and diseased vessel wall. Methods and Results: Genetic analyses revealed association of intronic PCSK6 variant rs1531817 with maximum internal carotid intima-media thickness progression in high-cardiovascular risk subjects. This variant was linked with PCSK6 mRNA expression in healthy aortas and plaques, but also with overall plaque SMA+ cell content and pericyte fraction. Increased PCSK6 expression was found in several independent human cohorts comparing atherosclerotic lesions vs. healthy arteries, using transcriptomic and proteomic datasets. By immunohistochemistry, PCSK6 was localised to fibrous cap SMA+ cells and neovessels in plaques. In human, rat, and mouse intimal hyperplasia, PCSK6 was expressed by proliferating SMA+ cells and upregulated after 5 days in rat carotid balloon injury model, with positive correlation to PDGFB and MMP2/MMP14. Here, PCSK6 was shown to co-localise and co-interact with MMP2/MMP14 by in situ proximity ligation assay. Microarrays of carotid arteries from Pcsk6-/- vs. control mice revealed suppression of contractile SMC markers, ECM remodeling enzymes and cytokines/receptors. Pcsk6-/- mice showed reduced intimal hyperplasia response upon carotid ligation in vivo, accompanied by decreased MMP14 activation and impaired SMC outgrowth from aortic rings ex vivo. PCSK6 silencing in human SMCs in vitro lead to downregulation of contractile markers and increase in MMP2 expression. Conversely, PCSK6 overexpression increased PDGFBB-induced cell proliferation and particularly migration. Conclusions: PCSK6 is a novel protease that induces SMC migration in response to PDGFB, mechanistically via modulation of contractile markers and MMP14 activation. This study establishes PCSK6 as a key regulator of SMC function in vascular remodeling.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.316063
View details for PubMedID 31893970
Coronary Disease Associated Gene TCF21 Inhibits Smooth Muscle Cell Differentiation by Blocking the Myocardin-Serum Response Factor Pathway.
Genome-wide association studies have identified multiple novel genomic loci associated with vascular diseases. Many of these loci are common non-coding variants that affect the expression of disease-relevant genes within coronary vascular cells. To identify such genes on a genome-wide level, we performed deep transcriptomic analysis of genotyped primary human coronary artery smooth muscle cells (HCASMCs) and coronary endothelial cells (HCAECs) from the same subjects, including splicing Quantitative Trait Loci (sQTL), allele-specific expression (ASE), and colocalization analyses. We identified sQTLs for TARS2, YAP1, CFDP1, and STAT6 in HCASMCs and HCAECs, and 233 ASE genes, a subset of which are also GTEx eGenes in arterial tissues. Colocalization of GWAS association signals for coronary artery disease (CAD), migraine, stroke and abdominal aortic aneurysm with GTEx eGenes in aorta, coronary artery and tibial artery discovered novel candidate risk genes for these diseases. At the CAD and stroke locus tagged by rs2107595 we demonstrate colocalization with expression of the proximal gene TWIST1. We show that disrupting the rs2107595 locus alters TWIST1 expression and that the risk allele has increased binding of the NOTCH signaling protein RBPJ. Finally, we provide data that TWIST1 expression influences vascular SMC phenotypes, including proliferation and calcification, as a potential mechanism supporting a role for TWIST1 in CAD.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008538
View details for PubMedID 31917787
Atheroprotective roles of smooth muscle cell phenotypic modulation and the TCF21 disease gene as revealed by single-cell analysis.
Rationale: The gene encoding transcription factor TCF21 has been linked to coronary artery disease (CAD) risk by human genome wide association studies (GWAS) in multiple racial ethnic groups. In murine models, Tcf21 is required for phenotypic modulation of smooth muscle cells (SMC) in atherosclerotic tissues and promotes a fibroblast phenotype in these cells. In humans, TCF21 expression inhibits risk for CAD. The molecular mechanism by which TCF21 regulates SMC phenotype is not known. Objective: To better understand how TCF21 affects SMC phenotype, we sought to investigate the possible mechanisms by which it regulates the lineage determining myocardin (MYOCD)-serum response factor (SRF) pathway. Methods and Results: Modulation of TCF21 expression in HCASMC revealed that TCF21 suppresses a broad range of SMC markers, as well as key SMC transcription factors MYOCD and SRF, at the RNA and protein level. We conducted chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-sequencing to map SRF binding sites in HCASMC, showing that binding is colocalized in the genome with TCF21, including at a novel enhancer in the SRF gene, and at the MYOCD gene promoter. In vitro genome editing indicated that the SRF enhancer CArG box regulates transcription of the SRF gene, and mutation of this conserved motif in the orthologous mouse SRF enhancer revealed decreased SRF expression in aorta and heart tissues. Direct TCF21 binding and transcriptional inhibition at co-localized sites were established by reporter gene transfection assays. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and protein co-immunoprecipitation studies provided evidence that TCF21 blocks MYOCD and SRF association by direct TCF21-MYOCD interaction. Conclusions: These data indicate that TCF21 antagonizes the MYOCD-SRF pathway through multiple mechanisms, further establishing a role for this CAD associated gene in fundamental SMC processes and indicating the importance of smooth muscle response to vascular stress and phenotypic modulation of this cell type in CAD risk.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.315968
View details for PubMedID 31815603
TCF21 and AP-1 interact through epigenetic modifications to regulate coronary artery disease gene expression
TCF21 and AP-1 interact through epigenetic modifications to regulate coronary artery disease gene expression.
2019; 11 (1): 23
In response to various stimuli, vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) can de-differentiate, proliferate and migrate in a process known as phenotypic modulation. However, the phenotype of modulated SMCs in vivo during atherosclerosis and the influence of this process on coronary artery disease (CAD) risk have not been clearly established. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, we comprehensively characterized the transcriptomic phenotype of modulated SMCs in vivo in atherosclerotic lesions of both mouse and human arteries and found that these cells transform into unique fibroblast-like cells, termed 'fibromyocytes', rather than into a classical macrophage phenotype. SMC-specific knockout of TCF21-a causal CAD gene-markedly inhibited SMC phenotypic modulation in mice, leading to the presence of fewer fibromyocytes within lesions as well as within the protective fibrous cap of the lesions. Moreover, TCF21 expression was strongly associated with SMC phenotypic modulation in diseased human coronary arteries, and higher levels of TCF21 expression were associated with decreased CAD risk in human CAD-relevant tissues. These results establish a protective role for both TCF21 and SMC phenotypic modulation in this disease.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41591-019-0512-5
View details for PubMedID 31359001
Large-Scale Single-Cell RNA-Seq Reveals Molecular Signatures of Heterogeneous Populations of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Endothelial Cells.
Genome-wide association studies have identified over 160 loci that are associated with coronary artery disease. As with other complex human diseases, risk in coronary disease loci is determined primarily by altered expression of the causal gene, due to variation in binding of transcription factors and chromatin-modifying proteins that directly regulate the transcriptional apparatus. We have previously identified a coronary disease network downstream of the disease-associated transcription factor TCF21, and in work reported here extends these studies to investigate the mechanisms by which it interacts with the AP-1 transcription complex to regulate local epigenetic effects in these downstream coronary disease loci.Genomic studies, including chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing, RNA sequencing, and protein-protein interaction studies, were performed in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells.We show here that TCF21 and JUN regulate expression of two presumptive causal coronary disease genes, SMAD3 and CDKN2B-AS1, in part by interactions with histone deacetylases and acetyltransferases. Genome-wide TCF21 and JUN binding is jointly localized and particularly enriched in coronary disease loci where they broadly modulate H3K27Ac and chromatin state changes linked to disease-related processes in vascular cells. Heterozygosity at coronary disease causal variation, or genome editing of these variants, is associated with decreased binding of both JUN and TCF21 and loss of expression in cis, supporting a transcriptional mechanism for disease risk.These data show that the known chromatin remodeling and pioneer functions of AP-1 are a pervasive aspect of epigenetic control of transcription, and thus, the risk in coronary disease-associated loci, and that interaction of AP-1 with TCF21 to control epigenetic features, contributes to the genetic risk in loci where they co-localize.
View details for PubMedID 31014396
Advances in Transcriptomics: Investigating Cardiovascular Disease at Unprecedented Resolution.
2018; 122 (9): 1200–1220
Rationale: Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived endothelial cells (iPSC-ECs) have risen as a useful tool in cardiovascular research, offering a wide gamut of translational and clinical applications. However, inefficiency of the currently available iPSC-EC differentiation protocol and underlying heterogeneity of derived iPSC-ECs remain as major limitations of iPSC-EC technology. Objective: Here we performed droplet-based single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) of the human iPSCs following iPSC-EC differentiation. Droplet-based scRNA-seq enables analysis of thousands of cells in parallel, allowing comprehensive analysis of transcriptional heterogeneity. Methods and Results: Bona fide iPSC-EC cluster was identified by scRNA-seq, which expressed high levels of endothelial-specific genes. iPSC-ECs, sorted by CD144 antibody-conjugated magnetic sorting, exhibited standard endothelial morphology and function including tube formation, response to inflammatory signals, and production of nitric oxide. Non-endothelial cell populations resulting from the differentiation protocol were identified, which included immature and atrial-like cardiomyocytes, hepatic-like cells, and vascular smooth muscle cells. Furthermore, scRNA-seq analysis of purified iPSC-ECs revealed transcriptional heterogeneity with four major subpopulations, marked by robust enrichment of CLDN5, APLNR, GJA5, and ESM1 genes respectively. Conclusions: Massively parallel, droplet-based scRNA-seq allowed meticulous analysis of thousands of human iPSCs subjected to iPSC-EC differentiation. Results showed inefficiency of the differentiation technique, which can be improved with further studies based on identification of molecular signatures that inhibit expansion of non-endothelial cell types. Subtypes of bona fide human iPSC-ECs were also identified, allowing us to sort for iPSC-ECs with specific biological function and identity.
View details for PubMedID 29986945
Coronary artery disease genes SMAD3 and TCF21 promote opposing interactive genetic programs that regulate smooth muscle cell differentiation and disease risk.
2018; 14 (10): e1007681
Whole-genome transcriptional profiling has become a standard genomic approach to investigate biological processes. RNA sequencing (RNAseq) in particular has witnessed myriad applications in genetics and various biomedical fields. RNAseq involves a relatively simple experimental protocol of RNA extraction and cDNA library preparation and, because of decreasing next-generation sequencing cost and lower computational burden for data processing, has obtained a central role in the modern biology. The recent application of RNAseq methodology to single-cell transcriptional profiling has enabled the more precise characterization of cell lineage and cell state genetic profiles. The development of bioinformatic and statistical tools has provided for differential gene expression analysis, RNA isoform analysis, haplotype-specific analysis of gene expression (allele-specific expression), and analysis of expression quantitative trait loci. We give an overview of these and recent developments in RNAseq methodology with emphasis on quality control, read mapping, feature counting, differential gene expression, allele-specific expression and expression quantitative trait loci analysis, and fusion transcript detection. We describe utilization of RNAseq as a diagnostic tool in Mendelian diseases, complex phenotypes, and cancer and give an overview of long read RNAseq technology. Furthermore, we discuss in detail the recent revolution in single-cell transcriptomics that is reshaping modern biology.
View details for PubMedID 29700068
Circulating peptide prevents preeclampsia
2017; 357 (6352): 643–44
The ESCRT-III pathway facilitates cardiomyocyte release of cBIN1-containing microparticles
2017; 15 (8): e2002354
Although numerous genetic loci have been associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) with genome wide association studies, efforts are needed to identify the causal genes in these loci and link them into fundamental signaling pathways. Recent studies have investigated the disease mechanism of CAD associated gene SMAD3, a central transcription factor (TF) in the TGFβ pathway, investigating its role in smooth muscle biology. In vitro studies in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells (HCASMC) revealed that SMAD3 modulates cellular phenotype, promoting expression of differentiation marker genes while inhibiting proliferation. RNA sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing studies in HCASMC identified downstream genes that reside in pathways which mediate vascular development and atherosclerosis processes in this cell type. HCASMC phenotype, and gene expression patterns promoted by SMAD3 were noted to have opposing direction of effect compared to another CAD associated TF, TCF21. At sites of SMAD3 and TCF21 colocalization on DNA, SMAD3 binding was inversely correlated with TCF21 binding, due in part to TCF21 locally blocking chromatin accessibility at the SMAD3 binding site. Further, TCF21 was able to directly inhibit SMAD3 activation of gene expression in transfection reporter gene studies. In contrast to TCF21 which is protective toward CAD, SMAD3 expression in HCASMC was shown to be directly correlated with disease risk. We propose that the pro-differentiation action of SMAD3 inhibits dedifferentiation that is required for HCASMC to expand and stabilize disease plaque as they respond to vascular stresses, counteracting the protective dedifferentiating activity of TCF21 and promoting disease risk.
View details for PubMedID 30307970
Genetics and Genomics of Coronary Artery Disease.
Current cardiology reports
2016; 18 (10): 102-?
Microparticles (MPs) are cell-cell communication vesicles derived from the cell surface plasma membrane, although they are not known to originate from cardiac ventricular muscle. In ventricular cardiomyocytes, the membrane deformation protein cardiac bridging integrator 1 (cBIN1 or BIN1+13+17) creates transverse-tubule (t-tubule) membrane microfolds, which facilitate ion channel trafficking and modulate local ionic concentrations. The microfold-generated microdomains continuously reorganize, adapting in response to stress to modulate the calcium signaling apparatus. We explored the possibility that cBIN1-microfolds are externally released from cardiomyocytes. Using electron microscopy imaging with immunogold labeling, we found in mouse plasma that cBIN1 exists in membrane vesicles about 200 nm in size, which is consistent with the size of MPs. In mice with cardiac-specific heterozygous Bin1 deletion, flow cytometry identified 47% less cBIN1-MPs in plasma, supporting cardiac origin. Cardiac release was also evidenced by the detection of cBIN1-MPs in medium bathing a pure population of isolated adult mouse cardiomyocytes. In human plasma, osmotic shock increased cBIN1 detection by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and cBIN1 level decreased in humans with heart failure, a condition with reduced cardiac muscle cBIN1, both of which support cBIN1 release in MPs from human hearts. Exploring putative mechanisms of MP release, we found that the membrane fission complex endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT)-III subunit charged multivesicular body protein 4B (CHMP4B) colocalizes and coimmunoprecipitates with cBIN1, an interaction enhanced by actin stabilization. In HeLa cells with cBIN1 overexpression, knockdown of CHMP4B reduced the release of cBIN1-MPs. Using truncation mutants, we identified that the N-terminal BAR (N-BAR) domain in cBIN1 is required for CHMP4B binding and MP release. This study links the BAR protein superfamily to the ESCRT pathway for MP biogenesis in mammalian cardiac ventricular cells, identifying elements of a pathway by which cytoplasmic cBIN1 is released into blood.
View details for PubMedID 28806752
Low prevalence of connexin-40 gene variants in atrial tissues and blood from atrial fibrillation subjects.
BMC medical genetics
2012; 13: 102
Coronary artery disease (or coronary heart disease), is the leading cause of mortality in many of the developing as well as the developed countries of the world. Cholesterol-enriched plaques in the heart's blood vessels combined with inflammation lead to the lesion expansion, narrowing of blood vessels, reduced blood flow, and may subsequently cause lesion rupture and a heart attack. Even though several environmental risk factors have been established, such as high LDL-cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure, the underlying genetic composition may substantially modify the disease risk; hence, genome composition and gene-environment interactions may be critical for disease progression. Ongoing scientific efforts have seen substantial advancements related to the fields of genetics and genomics, with the major breakthroughs yet to come. As genomics is the most rapidly advancing field in the life sciences, it is important to present a comprehensive overview of current efforts. Here, we present a summary of various genetic and genomics assays and approaches applied to coronary artery disease research.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s11886-016-0777-y
View details for PubMedID 27586139
Association of VEGF and VEGFR2 single nucleotide polymorphisms with hypertension and clinical outcome in metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma patients treated with sunitinib.
2012; 118 (7): 1946–54
The atrial gap junction protein connexin-40 (Cx40) has been implicated to play an important role in atrial conduction and development of atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the frequency of Cx40 mutations in AF populations and their impact on Cx40 expression remains unclear. In this study, we sought to identify polymorphisms in the Cx40 gene GJA5, investigate the potential functional role of these polymorphisms, and determine their allelic frequencies. The prevalence of nonsynonymous Cx40 mutations in blood and atrial tissue was also compared to mutation frequencies reported in prior studies.We conducted direct sequencing of the GJA5 coding and 3' UTR regions in blood samples from 91 lone AF subjects and 67 atrial tissue-derived samples from a lone cohort, a mixed AF cohort, and several transplant donors. Reporter gene transfection and tissue allelic expression imbalance assays were used to assess the effects of a common insertion/deletion polymorphism on Cx40 mRNA stability and expression.We identified one novel synonymous SNP in blood-derived DNA from a lone AF subject. In atrial tissue-derived DNA from lone and mixed AF subjects, we observed one novel nonsynonymous SNP, one rare previously reported synonymous SNP, and one novel 3' UTR SNP. A previously noted 25 bp insertion/deletion polymorphism in the 3' UTR was found to be common (minor allele frequency = 0.45) but had no effect on Cx40 mRNA stability and expression. The observed prevalence of nonsynonymous Cx40 mutations in atrial tissues derived from lone AF subjects differed significantly (p = 0.03) from a prior atrial tissue study reporting a high mutation frequency in a group of highly selected young lone AF subjects.Our results suggest that Cx40 coding SNPs are uncommon in AF populations, although rare mutations in this gene may certainly lead to AF pathogenesis. Furthermore, a common insertion/deletion polymorphism in the Cx40 3' UTR does not appear to play a role in modulating Cx40 mRNA levels.
View details for DOI 10.1186/1471-2350-13-102
View details for PubMedID 23134779
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3507864
A common connexin-40 gene promoter variant affects connexin-40 expression in human atria and is associated with atrial fibrillation.
Circulation. Arrhythmia and electrophysiology
2011; 4 (1): 87–93
Biomarkers that predict response or toxicity to antiangiogenic therapy are sought to favorably inform the risk/benefit ratio. This study evaluated the association of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) genetic polymorphisms with the development of hypertension (HTN) and clinical outcome in metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (MCCRCC) patients treated with sunitinib.Sixty-three MCCRCC patients receiving sunitinib (50 mg 4/2) with available blood pressure (BP) data and germline DNA were retrospectively identified. A panel of candidate VEGF and VEGFR2 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were evaluated for associations with the development of hypertension and clinical outcome.VEGF SNP -634 genotype was associated with the prevalence and duration of sunitinib-induced hypertension (as defined by systolic pressure ≥150 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure ≥90 mmHg) in both univariable analysis (P = .03 and .01, respectively) and multivariable analysis, which adjusted for baseline BP and use of antihypertension medication (P = .05 and .02, respectively). Patients with the GG genotype were estimated to have a greater likelihood of being hypertensive during treatment compared with patients with the CC genotype (odds ratio of 13.62, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.71-50.04). No single VEGF or VEGFR SNPs were found to correlate with clinical outcome. However, the combination of VEGF SNP 936 and VEGFR2 SNP 889 were associated with overall survival after adjustment for prognostic risk group (P = .03).In MCCRCC patients treated with sunitinib, VEGF SNP -634 is associated with hypertension and a combination of VEGF SNP 936 and VEGFR2 SNP 889 genotypes is associated with overall survival.
View details for DOI 10.1002/cncr.26491
View details for PubMedID 21882181
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4124607
A common single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the promoter of the Connexin-40 (Cx40) gene GJA5 was suggested to affect Cx40 promoter activity and the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), but the role of other common Cx40 polymorphisms is unknown.Eight SNPs within the Cx40 gene region were tested for association with Cx40 levels measured in atrial tissue from 61 individuals. The previously described Cx40 promoter SNP (rs35594137, -44G→A) was not associated with Cx40 mRNA levels. However, a common SNP (rs10465885) located in the TATA box of an alternative Cx40 promoter was strongly associated with Cx40 mRNA expression (P<0.0001) and displayed strong and consistent allelic expression imbalance in human atrial tissue. A promoter-luciferase assay in cultured murine cardiomyocytes demonstrated reduced activity of the promoter containing the minor allele of this SNP (P<0.0001). Both rs35594137 and rs10465885 were tested for association with early-onset lone AF (≤60 years of age) in 384 cases and 3010 population control subjects. rs10465885 was associated with the AF phenotype (odds ratio, 1.18; P=0.046). This result was confirmed in a meta-analysis including 2 additional early-onset lone AF case-control cohorts (odds ratio, 1.16, P=0.022). rs35594137 was not associated with the lone AF phenotype in any of the cohorts studied or in a combined analysis.A previously described Cx40 promoter SNP was not found to influence Cx40 expression or risk of AF. We describe an alternate promoter polymorphism that directly affects levels of Cx40 mRNA in vivo and is associated with early-onset lone AF.
View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCEP.110.959726
View details for PubMedID 21076161
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3057452