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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2013 Jan 1;187(1):78-89. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201206-1028OC. Epub 2012 Oct 18.

Imatinib attenuates hypoxia-induced pulmonary arterial hypertension pathology via reduction in 5-hydroxytryptamine through inhibition of tryptophan hydroxylase 1 expression.

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Respiratory Disease Area, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Horsham, West Sussex, UK.



Whether idiopathic, familial, or secondary to another disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by increased vascular tone, neointimal hyperplasia, medial hypertrophy, and adventitial fibrosis. Imatinib, a potent receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor, reverses pulmonary remodeling in animal models of PAH and improves hemodynamics and exercise capacity in selected patients with PAH.


Here we use both imatinib and knockout animals to determine the relationship between platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) and serotonin signaling and investigate the PAH pathologies each mediates.


We investigated the effects of imatinib (100 mg/kg) on hemodynamics, vascular remodeling, and downstream molecular signatures in the chronic hypoxia/SU5416 murine model of PAH.


Treatment with imatinib reduced all measures of PAH pathology observed in hypoxia/SU5416 mice. In addition, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (Tph1) expression were reduced compared with the normoxia/SU5416 control group. Imatinib attenuated hypoxia-induced increases in Tph1 expression in pulmonary endothelial cells in vitro via inhibition of the PDGFR-β pathway. To better understand the consequences of this novel mode of action for imatinib, we examined the development of PAH after hypoxic/SU5416 exposure in Tph1-deficient mice (Tph1(-/-)). The extensive changes in pulmonary vascular remodeling and hemodynamics in response to hypoxia/SU5416 were attenuated in Tph1(-/-) mice and further decreased after imatinib treatment. However, imatinib did not significantly further impact collagen deposition and collagen 3a1 expression in hypoxic Tph1(-/-) mice. Post hoc subgroup analysis suggests that patients with PAH with greater hemodynamic impairment showed significantly reduced 5-HT plasma levels after imatinib treatment compared with placebo.


We report a novel mode of action for imatinib, demonstrating TPH1 down-regulation via inhibition of PDGFR-β signaling. Our data reveal interplay between PDGF and 5-HT pathways within PAH, demonstrating TPH1-dependent imatinib efficacy in collagen-mediated mechanisms of fibrosis.

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