RATIONALE - Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a deadly disease of the pulmonary vasculature for which no disease-modifying therapies exist. Small-vessel stiffening and remodeling are fundamental pathological features of pulmonary arterial hypertension that occur early and drive further endovascular cell dysfunction. Bone marrow (BM)-derived proangiogenic cells (PACs), a specialized heterogeneous subpopulation of myeloid lineage cells, are thought to play an important role in pathogenesis.
OBJECTIVE - To determine whether BM-derived PACs directly contributed to experimental pulmonary hypertension (PH) by promoting small-vessel stiffening through 5-HT (serotonin 2B receptor)-mediated signaling.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We performed BM transplants using transgenic donor animals expressing diphtheria toxin secondary to activation of an endothelial-specific tamoxifen-inducible Cre and induced experimental PH using hypoxia with SU5416 to enhance endovascular injury and ablated BM-derived PACs, after which we measured right ventricular systolic pressures in a closed-chest procedure. BM-derived PAC lineage tracing was accomplished by transplanting BM from transgenic donor animals with fluorescently labeled hematopoietic cells and treating mice with a 5-HT antagonist. BM-derived PAC ablation both prevented and reversed experimental PH with SU5416-enhanced endovascular injury, reducing the number of muscularized pulmonary arterioles and normalizing arteriole stiffness as measured by atomic force microscopy. Similarly, treatment with a pharmacological antagonist of 5-HT also prevented experimental PH, reducing the number and stiffness of muscularized pulmonary arterioles. PACs accelerated pulmonary microvascular endothelial cell injury response in vitro, and the presence of BM-derived PACs significantly correlated with stiffer pulmonary arterioles in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients and mice with experimental PH. RNA sequencing of BM-derived PACs showed that 5-HT antagonism significantly altered biologic pathways regulating cell proliferation, locomotion and migration, and cytokine production and response to cytokine stimulus.
CONCLUSIONS - Together, our findings illustrate that BM-derived PACs directly contribute to experimental PH with SU5416-enhanced endovascular injury by mediating small-vessel stiffening and remodeling in a 5-HT signaling-dependent manner.