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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 25;6(3):e17735. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017735.

Altered gene expression in pulmonary tissue of tryptophan hydroxylase-1 knockout mice: implications for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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Translational Pharmacology Section, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America.


The use of fenfluramines can increase the risk of developing pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in humans, but the mechanisms responsible are unresolved. A recent study reported that female mice lacking the gene for tryptophan hydroxylase-1 (Tph1(-/-) mice) were protected from PAH caused by chronic dexfenfluramine, suggesting a pivotal role for peripheral serotonin (5-HT) in the disease process. Here we tested two alternative hypotheses which might explain the lack of dexfenfluramine-induced PAH in Tph1(-/-) mice. We postulated that: 1) Tph1(-/-) mice express lower levels of pulmonary 5-HT transporter (SERT) when compared to wild-type controls, and 2) Tph1(-/-) mice display adaptive changes in the expression of non-serotonergic pulmonary genes which are implicated in PAH. SERT was measured using radioligand binding methods, whereas gene expression was measured using microarrays followed by quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR). Contrary to our first hypothesis, the number of pulmonary SERT sites was modestly up-regulated in female Tph1(-/-) mice. The expression of 51 distinct genes was significantly altered in the lungs of female Tph1(-/-) mice. Consistent with our second hypothesis, qRT-PCR confirmed that at least three genes implicated in the pathogenesis of PAH were markedly up-regulated: Has2, Hapln3 and Retlna. The finding that female Tph1(-/-) mice are protected from dexfenfluramine-induced PAH could be related to compensatory changes in pulmonary gene expression, in addition to reductions in peripheral 5-HT. These observations emphasize the intrinsic limitation of interpreting data from studies conducted in transgenic mice that are not fully characterized.

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