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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 29;8(10):e77611. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077611. eCollection 2013.

Nitric oxide synthase-3 promotes embryonic development of atrioventricular valves.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Nitric oxide synthase-3 (NOS3) has recently been shown to promote endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) in the developing atrioventricular (AV) canal. The present study was aimed to investigate the role of NOS3 in embryonic development of AV valves. We hypothesized that NOS3 promotes embryonic development of AV valves via EndMT. To test this hypothesis, morphological and functional analysis of AV valves were performed in wild-type (WT) and NOS3(-/-) mice at postnatal day 0. Our data show that the overall size and length of mitral and tricuspid valves were decreased in NOS3(-/-) compared with WT mice. Echocardiographic assessment showed significant regurgitation of mitral and tricuspid valves during systole in NOS3(-/-) mice. These phenotypes were all rescued by cardiac specific NOS3 overexpression. To assess EndMT, immunostaining of Snail1 was performed in the embryonic heart. Both total mesenchymal and Snail1(+) cells in the AV cushion were decreased in NOS3(-/-) compared with WT mice at E10.5 and E12.5, which was completely restored by cardiac specific NOS3 overexpression. In cultured embryonic hearts, NOS3 promoted transforming growth factor (TGFβ), bone morphogenetic protein (BMP2) and Snail1expression through cGMP. Furthermore, mesenchymal cell formation and migration from cultured AV cushion explants were decreased in the NOS3(-/-) compared with WT mice. We conclude that NOS3 promotes AV valve formation during embryonic heart development and deficiency in NOS3 results in AV valve insufficiency.

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