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Smooth muscle cell-specific Tgfbr1 deficiency promotes aortic aneurysm formation by stimulating multiple signaling events

Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β signaling disorder has emerged as a common molecular signature for aortic aneurysm development. The timing of postnatal maturation plays a key role in dictating the biological outcome of TGF-β signaling disorders in the aortic wall. In this study, we investigated the impact of deficiency of TGFβ receptors on the structural homeostasis of mature aortas. We used an inducible Cre-loxP system driven by a Myh11 promoter to delete Tgfbr1, Tgfbr2, or both in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) of adult mice. TGFBR1 deficiency resulted in rapid and severe aneurysmal degeneration, with 100% penetrance of ascending thoracic aortas, whereas TGFBR2 deletion only caused mild aortic pathology with low (26%) lesion prevalence. Removal of TGFBR2 attenuated the aortic pathology caused by TGFBR1 deletion and correlated with a reduction of early ERK phosphorylation. In addition, the production of angiotensin (Ang)-converting enzyme was upregulated in TGFBR1 deficient aortas at the early stage of aneurysmal degeneration. Inhibition of ERK phosphorylation or blockade of AngII type I receptor AT1R prevented aneurysmal degeneration of TGFBR1 deficient aortas. In conclusion, loss of SMC-Tgfbr1 triggers multiple deleterious pathways, including abnormal TGFBR2, ERK, and AngII/AT1R signals that disrupt aortic wall homeostasis to cause aortic aneurysm formation.

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