Type I interferon activation and endothelial dysfunction in caveolin-1 insufficiency-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 16;118(11):e2010206118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2010206118.


Interferonopathies, interferon (IFN)-α/β therapy, and caveolin-1 (CAV1) loss-of-function have all been associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Here, CAV1-silenced primary human pulmonary artery endothelial cells (PAECs) were proliferative and hypermigratory, with reduced cytoskeletal stress fibers. Signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/protein kinase B (AKT) were both constitutively activated in these cells, resulting in a type I IFN-biased inflammatory signature. Cav1-/- mice that spontaneously develop pulmonary hypertension were found to have STAT1 and AKT activation in lung homogenates and increased circulating levels of CXCL10, a hallmark of IFN-mediated inflammation. PAH patients with CAV1 mutations also had elevated serum CXCL10 levels and their fibroblasts mirrored phenotypic and molecular features of CAV1-deficient PAECs. Moreover, immunofluorescence staining revealed endothelial CAV1 loss and STAT1 activation in the pulmonary arterioles of patients with idiopathic PAH, suggesting that this paradigm might not be limited to rare CAV1 frameshift mutations. While blocking JAK/STAT or AKT rescued aspects of CAV1 loss, only AKT inhibitors suppressed activation of both signaling pathways simultaneously. Silencing endothelial nitric oxide synthase (NOS3) prevented STAT1 and AKT activation induced by CAV1 loss, implicating CAV1/NOS3 uncoupling and NOS3 dysregulation in the inflammatory phenotype. Exogenous IFN reduced CAV1 expression, activated STAT1 and AKT, and altered the cytoskeleton of PAECs, implicating these mechanisms in PAH associated with autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases, as well as IFN therapy. CAV1 insufficiency elicits an IFN inflammatory response that results in a dysfunctional endothelial cell phenotype and targeting this pathway may reduce pathologic vascular remodeling in PAH.

Keywords: caveolin-1; inflammation; interferon; pulmonary arterial hypertension; pulmonary artery endothelium.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caveolin 1 / genetics*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / metabolism*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • CAV1 protein, human
  • Caveolin 1
  • Interferon Type I
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • STAT1 Transcription Factor
  • STAT1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt