Rationale: Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) promotes the proliferation and migration of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs), and may play a role in the progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a condition characterized by proliferation of PASMCs resulting in the obstruction of small pulmonary arteries.
Objectives: To analyze the expression and pathogenic role of PDGF in idiopathic PAH.
Methods: PDGF and PDGF receptor mRNA expression was studied by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction performed on laser capture microdissected pulmonary arteries from patients undergoing lung transplantation for idiopathic PAH. Immunohistochemistry was used to localize PDGF, PDGF receptors, and phosphorylated PDGFR-beta. The effects of imatinib on PDGF-B-induced proliferation and chemotaxis were tested on human PASMCs.
Measurements and main results: PDGF-A, PDGF-B, PDGFR-alpha, and PDGFR-beta mRNA expression was increased in small pulmonary arteries from patients displaying idiopathic PAH, as compared with control subjects. Western blot analysis revealed a significant increase in protein expression of PDGFR-beta in PAH lungs, as compared with control lungs. In small remodeled pulmonary arteries, PDGF-A and PDGF-B mainly localized to PASMCs and endothelial cells (perivascular inflammatory infiltrates, when present, showed intensive staining), PDGFR-alpha and PDGFR-beta mainly stained PASMCs and to a lesser extent endothelial cells. Proliferating pulmonary vascular lesions stained phosphorylated PDGFR-beta. PDGF-BB-induced proliferation and migration of PASMCs were inhibited by imatinib. This effect was not due to PASMC apoptosis.
Conclusions: PDGF may play an important role in human PAH. Novel therapeutic strategies targeting the PDGF pathway should be tested in clinical trials.