Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by progressive narrowing of pulmonary arteries resulting in right heart failure and death. Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptor type-2 (BMPR2) mutations account for most familial PAH (FPAH) forms while reduced BMPR2 is present in many idiopathic PAH (IPAH) forms, suggesting dysfunctional BMPR2 signaling to be a key feature of PAH. Modulating BMPR2 signaling is therapeutically promising, yet how BMPR2 is downregulated in PAH is unclear.OBJECTIVES:
We intended to identify and pharmaceutically target BMPR2 modifier genes to improve PAH.METHODS:
We combined siRNA High Throughput Screening (HTS) of >20,000 genes with a multi-cohort analysis of publicly available PAH RNA expression data to identify clinically relevant BMPR2-modifiers. After confirming gene dysregulation in PAH patient tissue, we determined the functional roles of BMPR2-modifiers in vitro and tested the repurposed drug Enzastaurin for its propensity to improve experimental PH.MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:
We discovered Fragile Histidine Triad (FHIT) as a novel BMPR2-modifier. BMPR2 and FHIT expression were reduced in PAH patients. FHIT reductions were associated with endothelial and smooth muscle cell dysfunction, rescued by Enzastaurin through a dual mechanism: upregulation of FHIT as well as miR17-5 repression. Fhit-/- mice had exaggerated hypoxic PH and failed to recover in normoxia. Enzastaurin reversed PH in the Sugen5416/Hypoxia/Normoxia rat model, by improving Right Ventricular Systolic Pressure (RVSP), RV hypertrophy, cardiac fibrosis and vascular remodeling.CONCLUSIONS:
This study highlights the importance of the novel BMPR2 modifier FHIT in PH and the clinical value of the repurposed drug Enzastaurin as a potential novel therapeutic strategy to improve PAH.