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Dev Biol. 2013 Jan 15;373(2):258-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.11.024. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

The 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR) pathway regulates developmental cerebral-vascular stability via prenylation-dependent signalling pathway.

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Department of Biology, Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics (CAREG), University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada.


Spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage is a debilitating form of stroke, often leading to death or permanent cognitive impairment. Many of the causative genes and the underlying mechanisms implicated in developmental cerebral-vascular malformations are unknown. Recent in vitro and in vivo studies in mice have shown inhibition of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR) pathway to be effective in stabilizing cranial vessels. Using a combination of pharmacological and genetic approaches to specifically inhibit the HMGCR pathway in zebrafish (Danio rerio), we demonstrate a requirement for this metabolic pathway in developmental vascular stability. Here we report that inhibition of HMGCR function perturbs cerebral-vascular stability, resulting in progressive dilation of blood vessels, followed by vessel rupture, mimicking cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM)-like lesions in humans and murine models. The hemorrhages in the brain are rescued by prior exogenous supplementation with geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP), a 20-carbon metabolite of the HMGCR pathway, required for the membrane localization and activation of Rho GTPases. Consistent with this observation, morpholino-induced depletion of the β-subunit of geranylgeranyltransferase I (GGTase I), an enzyme that facilitates the post-translational transfer of the GGPP moiety to the C-terminus of Rho family of GTPases, mimics the cerebral hemorrhaging induced by the pharmacological and genetic ablation of HMGCR. In embryos with cerebral hemorrhage, the endothelial-specific expression of cdc42, a Rho GTPase involved in the regulation of vascular permeability, was significantly reduced. Taken together, our data reveal a metabolic contribution to the stabilization of nascent cranial vessels, requiring protein geranylgeranylation acting downstream of the HMGCR pathway.

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