Myxoid degeneration of the cardiac valves is a common feature in a heterogeneous group of disorders that includes Marfan syndrome and isolated valvular diseases. Mitral valve prolapse is the most common outcome of these and remains one of the most common indications for valvular surgery. While the etiology of the disease is unknown, recent genetic studies have demonstrated that an X-linked form of familial cardiac valvular dystrophy can be attributed to mutations in the Filamin-A gene. Since these inheritable mutations are present from conception, we hypothesize that filamin-A mutations present at the time of valve morphogenesis lead to dysfunction that progresses postnatally to clinically relevant disease. Therefore, by carefully evaluating genetic factors (such as filamin-A) that play a substantial role in MVP, we can elucidate relevant developmental pathways that contribute to its pathogenesis. In order to understand how developmental expression of a mutant protein can lead to valve disease, the spatio-temporal distribution of filamin-A during cardiac morphogenesis must first be characterized. Although previously thought of as a ubiquitously expressed gene, we demonstrate that filamin-A is robustly expressed in non-myocyte cells throughout cardiac morphogenesis including epicardial and endocardial cells, and mesenchymal cells derived by EMT from these two epithelia, as well as mesenchyme of neural crest origin. In postnatal hearts, expression of filamin-A is significantly decreased in the atrioventricular and outflow tract valve leaflets and their suspensory apparatus. Characterization of the temporal and spatial expression pattern of filamin-A during cardiac morphogenesis is a crucial first step in our understanding of how mutations in filamin-A result in clinically relevant valve disease.
(c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.