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Serine elastases degrade elastin, stimulate vascular smooth muscle cell migration and proliferation, and are associated with myocardial damage.To evaluate the impact of elastase inhibition on cardiovascular development and disease, transgenic mice were created in which the mouse preproendothelin-1 promoter was used to target elafin overexpression to the cardiovascular system. To distinguish the transgene from endogenous elafin, constructs were made incorporating a FLAG sequence; the COOH-terminus FLAG-tagged elafin construct produced a stable, functionally active gene product and was used to create transgenic mice. Consistent with endothelin expression, abundant elafin mRNA was observed in transgenic F1 embryos (embryonic day 13.5) and in adult transgenic mice heart, trachea, aorta, kidney, lung, and skin, but not in liver, spleen, and intestine. Functional activity of the transgene was confirmed by heightened myocardial elastase inhibitory activity. No tissue abnormalities were detected by light microscopy or elastin content. However, injection of 10 plaque-forming units (PFU) of encephalomyocarditis virus resulted in death within 11 days in 10 out of 12 nontransgenic mice compared with one out of nine transgenic littermates. This reduced mortality was associated with better cardiac function and less myocardial inflammatory damage. Thus, elafin expression may confer a protective advantage in myocarditis and other inflammatory diseases.J.Clin. Invest. 103:1211-1219 (1999).