Gomez D, Coyet A, Ollivier V, Jeunemaitre X, Jondeau G, Michel JB, Vranckx R
AIMS: Human thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAAs) are characterized by extracellular matrix breakdown associated with progressive smooth muscle cell (SMC) rarefaction. These features are present in all types of TAA: monogenic forms [mainly Marfan syndrome (MFS)], forms associated with bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), and degenerative forms. Initially described in a mouse model of MFS, the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)/Smad2 signalling pathway is now assumed to play a role in TAA of various aetiologies. However, the relation between the aetiological diversity and the common cell phenotype with respect to TGF-β signalling remains unexplained. METHODS AND RESULTS: This study was performed on human aortic samples, including TAA [MFS, n = 14; BAV, n = 15; and degenerative, n = 19] and normal aortas (n = 10) from which tissue extracts and human SMCs and fibroblasts were obtained. We show that all types of TAA share a complex dysregulation of Smad2 signalling, independent of TGF-β1 in TAA-derived SMCs (pharmacological study, qPCR). The Smad2 dysregulation is characterized by an SMC-specific, heritable activation and overexpression of Smad2, compared with normal aortas. The cell specificity and heritability of this overexpression strongly suggest the implication of epigenetic control of Smad2 expression. By chromatin immunoprecipitation, we demonstrate that the increases in H3K9/14 acetylation and H3K4 methylation are involved in Smad2 overexpression in TAA, in a cell-specific and transcription start site-specific manner. CONCLUSION: Our results demonstrate the heritability, the cell specificity, and the independence with regard to TGF-β1 and genetic backgrounds of the Smad2 dysregulation in human thoracic aneurysms and the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms regulating histone marks in this process.