In this review, we discuss the role of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) in the development of pulmonary vascular disease (PVD), both pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (AVM) and pulmonary hypertension (PH), in hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). HHT or Rendu-Osler-Weber disease is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 5000 persons and characterized by epistaxis, telangiectasia and AVMs in more than 80% of cases, HHT is caused by a mutation in the ENG gene on chromosome 9 encoding for the protein endoglin or activin receptor-like kinase 1 (ACVRL1) gene on chromosome 12 encoding for the protein ALK-1, resulting in HHT type 1 or HHT type 2, respectively. A third disease-causing mutation has been found in the SMAD-4 gene, causing a combination of HHT and juvenile polyposis coli. All three genes play a role in the TGF-β signaling pathway that is essential in angiogenesis where it plays a pivotal role in neoangiogenesis, vessel maturation and stabilization. PH is characterized by elevated mean pulmonary arterial pressure caused by a variety of different underlying pathologies. HHT carries an additional increased risk of PH because of high cardiac output as a result of anemia and shunting through hepatic AVMs, or development of pulmonary arterial hypertension due to interference of the TGF-β pathway. HHT in combination with PH is associated with a worse prognosis due to right-sided cardiac failure. The treatment of PVD in HHT includes medical or interventional therapy.
Keywords: HHT; endoglin; pulmonary vascular disease.