Pharmacological inhibition of β-catenin prevents EndMT in vitro and vascular remodeling in vivo resulting from endothelial Akt1 suppression

Harika Sabbineni, Arti Verma, Sandeep Artham, Daniel Anderson, Oge Amaka, Fang Liu, Subhadra P Narayanan, Payaningal R Somanath
Biochemical Pharmacology 2019 April 13, 164: 205-215
Endothelial to mesenchymal transition (EndMT), where endothelial cells acquire mesenchymal characteristics has been implicated in several cardiopulmonary, vascular and fibrotic diseases. The most commonly studied molecular mechanisms involved in EndMT include TGFβ, Notch, interleukin, and interferon-γ signaling. As of today, the contributions of Akt1, an important mediator of TGFβ signaling and a key regulator of endothelial barrier function to EndMT remains unclear. By using the ShRNA based gene silencing approach and endothelial-specific inducible Akt1 knockdown (ECKOAkt1 ) mice, we studied the role of Akt1 in EndMT in vitro and pathological vascular remodeling in vivo. Stable, Akt1 silenced (ShAkt1) human microvascular endothelial cells (HMECs) indicated increased expression of mesenchymal markers such as N-cadherin and α-SMA, phosphorylation of Smad2/3, cellular stress via activation of p38 MAP Kinase and the loss of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) accompanied by a change in the morphology of HMECs in vitro and co-localization of endothelial and mesenchymal markers promoting EndMT in vivo. EndMT as a result of Akt1 loss was associated with increased expression of TGFβ2, a potent inducer of EndMT and mesenchymal transcription factors Snail1, and FoxC2. We observed that hypoxia-induced lung vascular remodeling is exacerbated in ECKOAkt1 mice, which was reversed by pharmacological inhibition of β-catenin. Thus, we provide novel insights into the role of Akt1-mediated β-catenin signaling in EndMT and pathological vascular remodeling, and present β-catenin as a potential target for therapy for various cardiopulmonary diseases involving vascular remodeling.

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