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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 Jun;337(3):621-7. doi: 10.1124/jpet.110.177782. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Doxycycline ameliorates the susceptibility to aortic lesions in a mouse model for the vascular type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cardiovascular Sciences, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


The vascular form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (vEDS), a rare disease with grave complications resulting from rupture of major arteries, is caused by mutations of collagen type III [α1 chain of collagen type III (COL3A1)]. The only, recently proven, preventive strategy consists of the reduction of arterial wall stress by β-adrenergic blockers. The heterozygous (HT) Col3a1 knockout mouse has reduced expression of collagen III and recapitulates features of a mild presentation of the disease. The objective of this study was to determine whether changing the balance between synthesis and degradation of collagen by chronic treatment with doxycycline, a nonspecific matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitor, could prevent the development of vascular pathology in HT mice. After 3 months of treatment with doxycycline or placebo, 9-month-old HT or wild-type (WT) mice were subjected to surgical stressing of the aorta. A 3-fold increase in stress-induced aortic lesions found in untreated HT mice 1 week after intervention (cumulative score 4.5 ± 0.87 versus 1.3 ± 0.34 in WT, p < 0.001) was fully prevented in the doxycycline-treated group (1.1 ± 0.56, p < 0.001). Untreated HT mice showed increased MMP-9 activity in the carotid artery and decreased collagen content in the aorta; however, in doxycycline-treated animals there was normalization to the levels observed in WT mice. Doxycycline treatment inhibits the activity of tissue MMP and attenuates the decrease in the collagen content in aortas of mice haploinsufficient for collagen III, as well as prevents the development of stress-induced vessel pathology. The results suggest that doxycycline merits clinical testing as a treatment for vEDS.

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