Fibulins are extracellular matrix proteins associated with elastic fibres. Homozygous Fibulin-4 mutations lead to life-threatening abnormalities such as aortic aneurysms. Aortic aneurysms in Fibulin-4 mutant mice were associated with upregulation of TGF-β signalling. How Fibulin-4 deficiency leads to deregulation of the TGF-β pathway is largely unknown. Isolated aortic smooth muscle cells (SMCs) from Fibulin-4 deficient mice showed reduced growth, which could be reversed by treatment with TGF-β neutralizing antibodies. In Fibulin-4 deficient SMCs increased TGF-β signalling was detected using a transcriptional reporter assay and by increased SMAD2 phosphorylation. Next, we investigated if the increased activity was due to increased levels of the three TGF-β isoforms. These data revealed slightly increased TGF-β1 and markedly increased TGF-β2 levels. Significantly increased TGF-β2 levels were also detectable in plasma from homozygous Fibulin-4R/R mice, not in wild type mice. TGF-β2 levels were reduced after losartan treatment, an angiotensin-II type-1 receptor blocker, known to prevent aortic aneurysm formation. In conclusion, we have shown increased TGF-β signalling in isolated SMCs from Fibulin-4 deficient mouse aortas, not only caused by increased levels of TGF-β1, but especially TGF-β2. These data provide new insights in the molecular interaction between Fibulin-4 and TGF-β pathway regulation in the pathogenesis of aortic aneurysms.,
Scientific Reports
Department of Pharmacology

Ramnath, N., Hawinkels, L., van Heijningen, P., te Riet, L., Paauwe, M., Vermeij, M., … Essers, J. (2015). Fibulin-4 deficiency increases TGF-β signalling in aortic smooth muscle cells due to elevated TGF-β2 levels. Scientific Reports, 5. doi:10.1038/srep16872