Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a common human phenotype, yet little is known about the pathogenesis of this condition. MVP can occur in the context of genetic syndromes, including Marfan syndrome (MFS), an autosomal-dominant connective tissue disorder caused by mutations in fibrillin-1. Fibrillin-1 contributes to the regulated activation of the cytokine TGF-β, and enhanced signaling is a consequence of fibrillin-1 deficiency. We thus hypothesized that increased TGF-β signaling may contribute to the multisystem pathogenesis of MFS, including the development of myxomatous changes of the atrioventricular valves. Mitral valves from fibrillin-1-deficient mice exhibited postnatally acquired alterations in architecture that correlated both temporally and spatially with increased cell proliferation, decreased apoptosis, and excess TGF-β activation and signaling. In addition, TGF-β antagonism in vivo rescued the valve phenotype, suggesting a cause and effect relationship. Expression analyses identified increased expression of numerous TGF-β-related genes that regulate cell proliferation and survival and plausibly contribute to myxomatous valve disease. These studies validate a novel, genetically engineered murine model of myxomatous changes of the mitral valve and provide critical insight into the pathogenetic mechanism of such changes in MFS and perhaps more common nonsyndromic variants of mitral valve disease.
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