2007 Russell Ross Memorial Lectureship in Vascular Biology—Epigenetic Control of Vascular Smooth Muscle Differentiation in Development and Disease
There is clear evidence that alterations in the differentiated state of the smooth muscle cell (SMC) play a key role in the pathogenesis of a number of major human diseases, including atherosclerosis and postan-gioplasty restenosis. This process is referred to as “phenotypic switching” and likely evolved to promote repair of vascular injury. However, the mechanisms controlling phenotypic switching as well as normal differentiation of SMCs in vivo are poorly understood. This talk will provide an overview of molecular mechanisms that control differentiation of SMCs during vascular development. A particular focus will be to consider the role of CArG elements found within the promoters of many SMC differentiation marker genes, as well as regulation of their activity by serum response factor and the potent SMC-selective serum response factor coactivator myocardin. In addition, I will summarize recent work in our laboratory showing that SMC- and gene-locus–selective changes in chromatin structure play a critical role both in normal control of SMC differentiation and in phenotypic switching in response to vascular injury. Finally, I will present evidence based on conditional knockout experiments in mice showing that krupple-like factor 4 is induced in SMCs after vascular injury and regulates SMC phenotypic switching and growth through:
binding to G/C repressor elements located in close proximity of CArG elements within the promoters of many SMC marker genes,
suppressing expression of myocardin, and
inducing epigenetic modifications of SMC marker gene loci associated with chromatin condensation and transcriptional silencing.
Supported by NIH grants P01 HL19242, R37 HL57353, and R01 HL 38854.