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Bone morphogenetic protein signaling in vascular disease: anti-inflammatory action through myocardin-related transcription factor A.


Pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH) patients exhibit elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines and infiltration of inflammatory cells in the lung. Concurrently, mutations of bmpr2, the gene encoding the type II receptor of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), are found in ∼75% of patients with familial PAH, but a possible nexus between increased inflammation and diminished BMP signaling has hitherto remained elusive. We previously showed that BMP4 triggers nuclear localization of the Myocardin-related transcription factor A (MRTF-A) in human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMC), resulting in the induction of contractile proteins. Here we report the BMPR2-dependent repression of a set of inflammatory mediators in response to BMP4 stimulation of PASMC. Forced expression of MRTF-A precisely emulates the anti-inflammatory effect of BMP4, while MRTF-A depletion precludes BMP4-mediated cytokine inhibition. BMP4 and MRTF-A block signaling through NF-κB, the keystone of most pathways leading to inflammatory responses, at the level of chromatin recruitment and promoter activation. Moreover, MRTF-A physically interacts with RelA/p65, the NF-κB subunit endowed with a transcription activation domain. Interestingly, the MRTF-A-NF-κB interaction is mutually antagonistic: stimulation of NF-κB signaling by TNFα, as well as p65 overexpression, hinders MRTF-A activity and the expression of contractile genes. Thus, a molecular inhibitory pathway linking BMP4 signaling, activation of MRTF-A, and inhibition of NF-κB provides insights into the etiology of PAH and a potential focus of therapeutic intervention.

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