Macrophage-Derived Legumain Promotes Pulmonary Hypertension by Activating the MMP (Matrix Metalloproteinase)-2/TGF (Transforming Growth Factor)-β1 Signaling

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2019 Apr;39(4):e130-e145. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.118.312254.


Objective- Macrophages participate in the pathogenesis of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Lgmn (Legumain), a newly discovered cysteine proteinase belonging to the C13 peptidase family, is primarily expressed in macrophages; however, its roles in PAH remain unknown. Approach and Results- Herein, Lgmn was upregulated in lung tissues of PAH mice subjected to hypoxia plus SU5416 and PAH rats challenged with monocrotaline. Global Lgmn ablation and macrophage-specific ablation alleviated PAH compared with wild-type mice, evident from a reduction in right ventricular systolic pressure, the ratio of the right ventricular wall to the left ventricular wall plus the septum, the pulmonary vascular media thickness, and pulmonary vascular muscularization. Increased expression of ECM (extracellular matrix) proteins was correlated with MMP (matrix metalloproteinase)-2 activation and TGF (transforming growth factor)-β1 signaling in the PAs. Although Lgmn did not affect inflammatory cell infiltration and PA smooth muscle cell proliferation, it drove increased the synthesis of ECM proteins via MMP-2 activation. MMP-2 hydrolyzed the TGF-β1 precursor to the active form. An Lgmn-specific inhibitor markedly ameliorated PAH. Clinically, serum Lgmn levels were closely associated with the severity of idiopathic PAH. Conclusions- Our results indicate that Lgmn inhibition could be an effective strategy for preventing or delaying PAH.

Keywords: extracellular matrix; hypertension; hypoxia; macrophages; transforming growth factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caspase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / deficiency
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / blood
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / enzymology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / pathology
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / prevention & control
  • Hypoxia / enzymology
  • Indoles / toxicity
  • Inflammation
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Macrophages / enzymology*
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocrotaline / toxicity
  • Pyrroles / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / physiology*
  • Vascular Remodeling / physiology


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Indoles
  • Pyrroles
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Semaxinib
  • Monocrotaline
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • asparaginylendopeptidase
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2