Blocking the NOTCH Pathway Inhibits Vascular Inflammation in Large-Vessel Vasculitis
Background—Giant cell arteritis is a granulomatous vasculitis of the aorta and its branches that causes blindness, stroke, and aortic aneurysm. CD4 T cells are key pathogenic regulators, instructed by vessel wall dendritic cells to differentiate into vasculitic T cells. The unique pathways driving this dendritic cell–T-cell interaction are incompletely understood, but may provide novel therapeutic targets for a disease in which the only established therapy is long-term treatment with high doses of corticosteroids.
Methods and Results—Immunohistochemical and gene expression analyses of giant cell arteritis-affected temporal arteries revealed abundant expression of the NOTCH receptor and its ligands, Jagged1 and Delta1. Cleavage of the NOTCH intracellular domain in wall-infiltrating T cells indicated ongoing NOTCH pathway activation in large-vessel vasculitis. NOTCH activation did not occur in small-vessel vasculitis affecting branches of the vasa vasorum tree. We devised 2 strategies to block NOTCH pathway activation: γ-secretase inhibitor treatment, preventing nuclear translocation of the NOTCH intracellular domain, and competing for receptor-ligand interactions through excess soluble ligand, Jagged1-Fc. In a humanized mouse model, NOTCH pathway disruption had strong immunosuppressive effects, inhibiting T-cell activation in the early and established phases of vascular inflammation. NOTCH inhibition was particularly effective in downregulating Th17 responses, but also markedly suppressed Th1 responses.
Conclusions—Blocking NOTCH signaling depleted T cells from the vascular infiltrates, implicating NOTCH-NOTCH ligand interactions in regulating T-cell retention and survival in vessel wall inflammation. Modulating the NOTCH signaling cascade emerges as a promising new strategy for immunosuppressive therapy of large-vessel vasculitis.
- Received January 4, 2010.
- Accepted November 3, 2010.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.