Failure of the ductus arteriosus (DA) to close at birth can lead to serious complications. Conversely, certain profound congenital cardiac malformations require the DA to be patent until corrective surgery can be performed. In each instance, clinicians have a very limited repertoire of therapeutic options at their disposal - indomethacin or ibuprofen to close a patent DA (PDA) and prostaglandin E1 to maintain patency of the DA. Neither treatment is specific to the DA and both may have deleterious off-target effects. Therefore, more therapeutic options specifically targeted to the DA should be considered. We hypothesized the DA possesses a unique genetic signature that would set it apart from other vessels. A microarray was used to compare the genetic profiles of the murine DA and ascending aorta (AO). Over 4,000 genes were differentially expressed between these vessels including a subset of ion channel-related genes. Specifically, the alpha and beta subunits of large-conductance calcium-activated potassium (BKCa) channels are enriched in the DA. Gain- and loss-of-function studies showed inhibition of BKCa channels caused the DA to constrict, while activation caused DA relaxation even in the presence of O2. This study identifies subsets of genes that are enriched in the DA that may be used to develop DA-specific drugs. Ion channels that regulate DA tone, including BKCa channels, are promising targets. Specifically, BKCa channel agonists like NS1619 maintain DA patency even in the presence of O2 and may be clinically useful.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.