Metallothionein-dependent up-regulation of TGF-β2 participates in the remodelling of the myxomatous mitral valve

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Although an excessive extracellular matrix remodelling has been well described in myxomatous mitral valve (MMV), the underlying pathogenic mechanisms remain largely unknown. Our goal was to identify dysregulated genes in human MMV and then to evaluate their functional role in the progression of the disease.

Methods and results

Dysregulated genes were investigated by transcriptomic, immunohistochemistry, and western blot analyses of the P2 segment collected from human idiopathic MMV during valvuloplasty (n = 23) and from healthy control valves (n = 17). The most striking results showed a decreased expression of two families of genes: the metallothioneins-1 and -2 (MT1/2) and members of the ADAMTS. The mechanistic consequences of the reduced level of MT1/2 were evaluated by silencing their expression in normal valvular interstitial cells (VICs) cultures. The knock-down of MT1/2 resulted in the up-regulation of transforming growth factor-beta 2 (TGF-β2). Most importantly, TGF-β2 was also found significantly increased in MMV tissues. The activation of VICs in vitro by TGF-β2 induced a down-regulation of ADAMTS-1 and an accumulation of versican as observed in human MMV.


Our studies demonstrate for the first time that MMV are characterized by reduced levels of MT1/2 accompanied by an up-regulation of TGF-β2. In turn, increased TGF-β2 signalling induces down-regulation of aggrecanases and up-regulation of versican, two co-operating processes that potentially participate in the development of the pathology.

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