Pharmacological Inhibition of mTOR Kinase Reverses Right Ventricle Remodeling and Improves Right Ventricle Structure and Function in Rats

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Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by pulmonary vascular remodeling, increased pulmonary artery (PA) pressure, right-heart afterload and death. Mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) promotes smooth muscle cell proliferation, survival, and pulmonary vascular remodeling via two functionally distinct mTOR complexes (mTORCs)-1 (supports cell growth) and -2 (promotes cell survival), and dual mTORC1/mTORC2 inhibition selectively induces pulmonary arterial hypertension PA vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis and reverses pulmonary vascular remodeling. The consequences of mTOR inhibition on right ventricle (RV) morphology and function are not known. Using SU5416/hypoxia rat model of pulmonary hypertension (PH), we report that, in contrast to activation of both mTORC1 and mTORC2 pathways in small remodeled PAs, RV tissues had predominant up-regulation of mTORC1 signaling accompanied by cardiomyocyte and RV hypertrophy, increased RV wall thickness, RV/left ventricle end-diastolic area ratio, RV contractility and afterload (arterial elastance), and shorter RV acceleration time compared with controls. Treatment with mTOR kinase inhibitor, PP242, at Weeks 6-8 after PH induction suppressed both mTORC1 and mTORC2 in small PAs, but only mTORC1 signaling in RV, preserving basal mTORC2-Akt levels. Vehicle-treated rats showed further PH and RV worsening and profound RV fibrosis. PP242 reversed pulmonary vascular remodeling and prevented neointimal occlusion of small PAs, significantly reduced PA pressure and pulmonary vascular resistance, reversed cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and RV remodeling, improved max RV contractility, arterial elastance, and RV acceleration time, and prevented development of RV fibrosis. Collectively, these data show a predominant role of mTORC1 versus mTORC2 in RV pathology, and suggest potential attractiveness of mTOR inhibition to simultaneously target pulmonary vascular remodeling and RV dysfunction in established PH.

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