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Sci Transl Med. 2010 Aug 11;2(44):44ra58. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001327.

Fatty acid oxidation and malonyl-CoA decarboxylase in the vascular remodeling of pulmonary hypertension.

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Pulmonary Hypertension Program, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2B7.


Pulmonary arterial hypertension is caused by excessive growth of vascular cells that eventually obliterate the pulmonary arterial lumen, causing right ventricular failure and premature death. Despite some available treatments, its prognosis remains poor, and the cause of the vascular remodeling remains unknown. The vascular smooth muscle cells that proliferate during pulmonary arterial hypertension are characterized by mitochondrial hyperpolarization, activation of the transcription factor NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells), and down-regulation of the voltage-gated potassium channel Kv1.5, all of which suppress apoptosis. We found that mice lacking the gene for the metabolic enzyme malonyl-coenzyme A (CoA) decarboxylase (MCD) do not show pulmonary vasoconstriction during exposure to acute hypoxia and do not develop pulmonary arterial hypertension during chronic hypoxia but have an otherwise normal phenotype. The lack of MCD results in an inhibition of fatty acid oxidation, which in turn promotes glucose oxidation and prevents the shift in metabolism toward glycolysis in the vascular media, which drives the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension in wild-type mice. Clinically used metabolic modulators that mimic the lack of MCD and its metabolic effects normalize the mitochondrial-NFAT-Kv1.5 defects and the resistance to apoptosis in the proliferated smooth muscle cells, reversing the pulmonary hypertension induced by hypoxia or monocrotaline in mice and rats, respectively. This study of fatty acid oxidation and MCD identifies a critical role for metabolism in both the normal pulmonary circulation (hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction) and pulmonary hypertension, pointing to several potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of this deadly disease.

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