Mitochondrial Protein Poldip2 (Polymerase Delta Interacting Protein 2) Controls Vascular Smooth Muscle Differentiated Phenotype by O-Linked GlcNAc (N-Acetylglucosamine) Transferase-Dependent Inhibition of a Ubiquitin Proteasome System

Circ Res. 2020 Jan 3;126(1):41-56. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.315932. Epub 2019 Oct 28.


Rationale: The mitochondrial Poldip2 (protein polymerase interacting protein 2) is required for the activity of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. As a consequence, Poldip2 deficiency induces metabolic reprograming with repressed mitochondrial respiration and increased glycolytic activity. Though homozygous deletion of Poldip2 is lethal, heterozygous mice are viable and show protection against aneurysm and injury-induced neointimal hyperplasia, diseases linked to loss of vascular smooth muscle differentiation. Thus, we hypothesize that the metabolic reprograming induced by Poldip2 deficiency controls VSMC differentiation.

Objective: To determine the role of Poldip2-mediated metabolic reprograming in phenotypic modulation of VSMC.

Methods and results: We show that Poldip2 deficiency in vascular smooth muscle in vitro and in vivo induces the expression of the SRF (serum response factor), myocardin, and MRTFA (myocardin-related transcription factor A) and dramatically represses KLF4 (Krüppel-like factor 4). Consequently, Poldip2-deficient VSMC and mouse aorta express high levels of contractile proteins and, more significantly, these cells do not dedifferentiate nor acquire macrophage-like characteristics when exposed to cholesterol or PDGF (platelet-derived growth factor). Regarding the mechanism, we found that Poldip2 deficiency upregulates the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway and OGT (O-linked N-acetylglucosamine transferase)-mediated protein O-GlcNAcylation. Increased protein glycosylation causes the inhibition of a nuclear ubiquitin proteasome system responsible for SRF stabilization and KLF4 repression and is required for the establishment of the differentiated phenotype in Poldip2-deficient cells.

Conclusions: Our data show that Poldip2 deficiency induces a highly differentiated phenotype in VSMCs through a mechanism that involves regulation of metabolism and proteostasis. Additionally, our study positions mitochondria-initiated signaling as key element of the VSMC differentiation programs that can be targeted to modulate VSMC phenotype during vascular diseases.

Keywords: aneurysm; hyperplasia; metabolism; mitochondria; muscle; smooth; vascular.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / deficiency
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / cytology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism*
  • Neointima
  • Nuclear Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Nuclear Proteins / deficiency
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Serum Response Factor / biosynthesis
  • Serum Response Factor / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / biosynthesis
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • KLF4 protein, human
  • Klf4 protein, mouse
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • MRTFA protein, human
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Mrtfa protein, mouse
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • SRF protein, human
  • Serum Response Factor
  • Trans-Activators
  • Ubiquitin
  • mitogenin 1 protein, mouse
  • myocardin
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex