Studies on sporadic non-syndromic thoracic aortic aneurysms: 1. Deregulation of Jagged/Notch 1 homeostasis and selection of synthetic/secretor phenotype smooth muscle cells

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Sporadic non-syndromic thoracic aortic aneurysms (SNSTAAs) are less well understood than familial non-syndromic or syndromic ones. The study aimed at defining the peculiar morphologic and molecular changes occurring in the media layer of SNSTAAs.


This study was based on a single centre design.


Media layer samples taken from seven carefully selected SNSTAAs and seven reference patients (controls) were investigated via quantitative polymerase chain reaction, proteomics-bioinformatics, immunoblotting, quantitative histology, and immunohistochemistry/immunofluorescence.


In SNSTAAs media, aortic smooth muscle cells numbers were halved due to an apoptotic process coupled with a negligible cell proliferation. Cystathionine γ-lyase was diffusely up-regulated. Surviving aortic smooth muscle cells exhibited diverging phenotypes: in inner- and outer-media contractile cells prevailed, having higher contents of smooth-muscle-α-actin holoprotein (45-kDa) and of caspase-3-cleaved smooth-muscle-α-actin 25-kDa fragments; in mid-media, aortic smooth muscle cells exhibited a synthetic/secretor phenotype, down-regulating vimentin, but up-regulating glial fibrillary acidic protein, trans-Golgi network 46 protein, Jagged1 (172-kDa) holoprotein, and Jagged1’s receptor Notch1. Extracellular soluble Jagged1 (42-kDa) fragments accumulated.


In SNSTAAs, there is a relentless aortic smooth muscle cells attrition caused by the up-regulated cystathionine γ-lyase. In mid-media, synthetic/secretor aortic smooth muscle cells intensify Jagged1/NOTCH1 signalling in the attempt to counterbalance the weakened aortic wall, due to aortic smooth muscle cells net loss and mechanical stress. Synthetic/secretor aortic smooth muscle cells are apoptosis-prone, and the accruing thrombin-cleaved Jagged1 fragments counteract the otherwise useful effects of Jagged1/NOTCH1 signalling, thus hampering tissue homeostasis/remodelling, and aortic smooth muscle cells adhesion, differentiation, and migration.

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