Introduction: Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) is a devastating autoimmune disorder affecting multiple tissues, including heart. However, the molecular mechanisms that cause cardiac effects in SLE remain unclear. PTPN11, the gene encoding the SH2 domain-containing protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP2, is critical for development and is the first tyrosine phosphatase known to have a functional role in the adult heart. Moreover, gain-of-function mutations in SHP2 have been associated with onset of SLE. Here, sought to identify the mechanistic role for SHP2 in the cardiac pathogenesis of SLE.
Methods and Results: We analyzed hearts from 18-week old female MRL/lpr (SLE-prone) and MRL/MpJ (control) mice. As compared to controls, MRL/lpr hearts showed substantial interstitial fibrosis and had elevated numbers of infiltrated CD11b+ leukocytes. Moreover, MRL/lpr hearts displayed decreased fractional shortening and enlarged chamber dimensions, as measured by echocardiography. MRL/lpr heart lysates revealed significantly elevated SHP2 phosphatase activity, as compared to controls. Immunoprecipitation of SHP2 from MRL/lpr hearts revealed Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK) in complex with SHP2. FAK is required to maintain cardiac function under conditions of stress. Significantly, SHP2 is a negative regulator of FAK, suggesting SHP2 may be involved in cardiac pathogenesis through dephosphorylation of FAK. Here, MRL/lpr heart lysates had decreased pY397-FAK activity, in conjunction with decreased p-ERK levels, suggesting that SHP2 may play a role in cardiac pathogenesis of SLE through aberrant FAK -mediated regulation of ERK. To test whether higher SHP2 activity contributes to the cardiac pathogenesis in lupus, we utilized a potent SHP2 inhibitor, 11a-1, to treat MRL/lpr mice for 6 weeks starting at 12 weeks of age. Hearts from these mice displayed improved cardiac structure and function, with reduced chamber dimensions, had decreased numbers of CD11b+ leukocytes and lessened cardiac fibrosis. Moreover, pY397-FAK and p-ERK activities were both nearly normalized in response to treatment with the SHP2 inhibitor.
Conclusion: These data suggest that SHP2 affects cardiac pathogenesis in SLE hearts through regulation of FAK and ERK signaling.