Calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) is a common cardiac defect, particularly in the aging population. While several risk factors, such as bi-leaflet valve structure and old age, have been identified in CAVD pathogenesis, molecular mechanisms resulting in this condition are still under active investigation. Bone morphogenetic protein signaling via the activin type I receptor (AcvRI) plays an important role during physiological and pathological processes involving calcification, e.g., bone formation and heterotopic ossification. In addition, AcvRI is required for normal cardiac valve development, yet its role in aortic valve disease, if any, is currently unknown. Here, we induced the expression of constitutively active AcvRI in developing mouse embryos in the endocardium and in cells at the valve leaflet–wall junction that are not of endocardium origin using the Nfac1Cre transgene. The mutant mice were born alive, but showed thickened aortic and pulmonary valve leaflets during the early postnatal period. Adult mutant mice developed aortic stenosis with high frequency, sclerotic aortic valves, and displayed Alcian Blue-positive hypertrophic chondrocyte-like cells at the leaflet–wall junction. Calcification was only seen with low penetrance. In addition, we observed that the expression levels of gene sets associated with inflammation-related cytokine signaling, smooth muscle cell contraction, and cGMP signaling were altered in the mutants when compared with those of the controls. This work shows that, in a mouse model, such continuous AcvRI activity in the Nfatc1Cre recombination domain results in pathological changes in the aortic valve structure and function.
- TGF-beta superfamily signaling
- valve defects
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
- Pharmacology (medical)