Identification and characterization of mutations in SMC contractile genes involved in thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections

Li Wang, The University of Texas Grad. Sch. of Biomed. Sci. at Houston


Aortic aneurysms and dissections are the 15th most common cause of death in the United States. Genetic factors contribute to the pathogenesis of thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections (TAAD). Currently, six loci and four genes have been identified for familial TAAD. Notably, mutations in smooth muscle cell (SMC) contractile genes, ACTA2 and MYH11, are responsible for 15% of familial TAAD, suggesting that proper SMC contraction is important for normal aorta function. Therefore, we hypothesize that mutations in other genes encoding SMC contractile proteins also cause familial TAAD. ^ To test this hypothesis, we used a candidate gene approach to identify causative mutations in SMC contractile genes for familial TAAD. Sequencing DNA in 80 TAAD patients from unrelated families, we identified putative mutations in eight contractile genes. We chose myosin light chain kinase (MLCK ) S1759P for further study for the following reasons: (1) Serine 1759 is conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates. (2) S1759P is predicted to be functionally deleterious by bioinformatics. (3) Low blood pressure is observed in SMC-selective MLCK-deficient mice. ^ In the presence of Ca2+/Calmodulin (CaM), MLCK containing CaM binding and kinase domains are activated to phosphorylate myosin light chain, thereby initiate SMC contraction. The CaM binding sequence of MLCK forms an α-helix structure required for CaM binding. MLCK Serine 1759 is located within the CaM binding domain. S1759P is predicted to decrease the α-helix composition in the CaM binding domain. Hence, we hypothesize that MLCK mutations cause TAAD through disturbing CaM binding and MLCK activity. ^ We further sequenced MLCK in DNA samples from additional 86 probands with familial TAAD. Two more mutations, MLCK A1754T and R1480Stop, were identified, supporting that MLCK mutations cause familial TAAD. ^ To define whether MLCK mutations disrupted CaM binding and MLCK activity, we performed co-immunoprecipitation and kinase assays. Decreased CaM binding and kinase activity was detected in A1754T and S1759P. Moreover, R1480Stop is predicted to truncate kinase and CaM binding domains. We conclude that MLCK mutations disrupt CaM binding and MLCK activity. ^ Collectively, our study is first to show mutations in genes regulating SMC contraction cause TAAD. This finding further highlights the importance of SMC contraction in maintaining aorta function. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Genetics|Health Sciences, Pathology

Recommended Citation

Wang, Li, "Identification and characterization of mutations in SMC contractile genes involved in thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3376901.