Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is the life-threatening complication of Marfan syndrome (MFS), a connective tissue disorder caused by mutations in the fibrillin-1 gene. TAA is characterized by degradation of elastic fiber, suggesting the involvement of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9, the activation of which is regulated by TIMP (tissue inhibitor of MMP) types 1 and 2. We hypothesized that MMP-2 and -9 were upregulated during TAA formation in Marfan syndrome, causing loss of elastic fibers and structural integrity. We studied mice, from 3 to 12 months, heterozygous for a mutant Fbn1 allele encoding a cysteine substitution in fibrillin-1 (Fbn1, designated as "Marfan" mice) (n=120), the most common class of mutation in Marfan syndrome. The littermates, Fbn1 served as controls (n=120). In Marfan aneurysmal thoracic aorta, mRNA and protein expression of MMP-2 and -9 were detected at 3 months and peaked at 6 months of age, accompanied by severe elastic fiber fragmentation and degradation. From 3 to 9 months, the MMP-2/TIMP-2 ratio increased by 43% to 63% compared with the controls. Dilated thoracic aorta demonstrated increased elasticity but distention caused a pronounced loss of contraction, suggesting weakening of the aortic wall. Breaking stress of the aneurysmal aorta was 70% of the controls. Contraction in response to depolarization and receptor stimulation decreased in the aneurysmal thoracic aorta by 50% to 80%, but the expression of α-smooth muscle actin between the 2 strains was not significantly different. This report demonstrates the upregulation of MMP-2 and -9 during TAA formation in Marfan syndrome. The resulting elastic fiber degeneration with deterioration of the aortic contraction and mechanical properties may explain the pathogenesis of TAA.
- Elastic fiber
- Marfan syndrome
- Matrix metalloproteinase
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm
- Vascular smooth muscle contraction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine