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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2007 Jun;292(6):L1473-9. Epub 2007 Feb 23.

Interaction of interleukin-6 and the BMP pathway in pulmonary smooth muscle.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado 80262, USA.


The majority of familial pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) cases are caused by mutations in the type 2 bone morphogenetic protein receptor (BMPR2). However, less than one-half of BMPR2 mutation carriers develop PAH, suggesting that the most important function of BMPR2 mutation is to cause susceptibility to a "second hit." There is substantial evidence from the literature implicating dysregulated inflammation, in particular the cytokine IL-6, in the development of PAH. We thus hypothesized that the BMP pathway regulates IL-6 in pulmonary tissues and conversely that IL-6 regulates the BMP pathway. We tested this in vivo using transgenic mice expressing an inducible dominant negative BMPR2 in smooth muscle, using mice injected with an IL-6-expressing virus, and in vitro using small interfering RNA (siRNA) to BMPR2 in human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PA SMC). Consistent with our hypothesis, we found upregulation of IL-6 in both the transgenic mice and in cultured PA SMC with siRNA to BMPR2; this could be abolished with p38(MAPK) inhibitors. We also found that IL-6 in vivo caused a twofold increase in expression of the BMP signaling target Id1 and caused increased BMP activity in a luciferase-reporter assay in PA SMC. Thus we have shown both in vitro and in vivo a complete negative feedback loop between IL-6 and BMP, suggesting that an important consequence of BMPR2 mutations may be poor regulation of cytokines and thus vulnerability to an inflammatory second hit.

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