Myocardin is required for maintenance of vascular and visceral smooth muscle homeostasis during postnatal development

Jianhe Huang, Tao Wang, Alexander C Wright, Jifu Yang, Su Zhou, Li Li, Jisheng Yang, Aeron Small, Michael S Parmacek
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 April 7, 112 (14): 4447-52
Myocardin is a muscle-restricted transcriptional coactivator that activates a serum response factor (SRF)-dependent gene program required for cardiogenesis and embryonic survival. To identify myocardin-dependent functions in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) during postnatal development, mice harboring a SMC-restricted conditional, inducible Myocd null mutation were generated and characterized. Tamoxifen-treated SMMHC-Cre(ERT2)/Myocd(F/F) conditional mutant mice die within 6 mo of Myocd gene deletion, exhibiting profound derangements in the structure of great arteries as well as the gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts. Conditional mutant mice develop arterial aneurysms, dissection, and rupture, recapitulating pathology observed in heritable forms of thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection (TAAD). SMCs populating arteries of Myocd conditional mutant mice modulate their phenotype by down-regulation of SMC contractile genes and up-regulation of extracellular matrix proteins. Surprisingly, this is accompanied by SMC autonomous activation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and autophagy, which over time progress to programmed cell death. Consistent with these observations, Myocd conditional mutant mice develop remarkable dilation of the stomach, small intestine, bladder, and ureters attributable to the loss of visceral SMCs disrupting the muscularis mucosa. Taken together, these data demonstrate that during postnatal development, myocardin plays a unique, and important, role required for maintenance and homeostasis of the vasculature, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts. The loss of myocardin in SMCs triggers ER stress and autophagy, which transitions to apoptosis, revealing evolutionary conservation of myocardin function in SMCs and cardiomyocytes.

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