Bestrophin3 Deficiency in Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells Activates MEKK2/3-MAPK Signaling to Trigger Spontaneous Aortic Dissection

Circulation. 2023 Aug 15;148(7):589-606. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.063029. Epub 2023 May 19.


Background: Aortic dissection (AD) is a fatal cardiovascular disorder without effective medications due to unclear pathogenic mechanisms. Bestrophin3 (Best3), the predominant isoform of bestrophin family in vessels, has emerged as critical for vascular pathological processes. However, the contribution of Best3 to vascular diseases remains elusive.

Methods: Smooth muscle cell-specific and endothelial cell-specific Best3 knockout mice (Best3SMKO and Best3ECKO, respectively) were engineered to investigate the role of Best3 in vascular pathophysiology. Functional studies, single-cell RNA sequencing, proteomics analysis, and coimmunoprecipitation coupled with mass spectrometry were performed to evaluate the function of Best3 in vessels.

Results: Best3 expression in aortas of human AD samples and mouse AD models was decreased. Best3SMKO but not Best3ECKO mice spontaneously developed AD with age, and the incidence reached 48% at 72 weeks of age. Reanalysis of single-cell transcriptome data revealed that reduction of fibromyocytes, a fibroblast-like smooth muscle cell cluster, was a typical feature of human ascending AD and aneurysm. Consistently, Best3 deficiency in smooth muscle cells decreased the number of fibromyocytes. Mechanistically, Best3 interacted with both MEKK2 and MEKK3, and this interaction inhibited phosphorylation of MEKK2 at serine153 and MEKK3 at serine61. Best3 deficiency induced phosphorylation-dependent inhibition of ubiquitination and protein turnover of MEKK2/3, thereby activating the downstream mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling cascade. Furthermore, restoration of Best3 or inhibition of MEKK2/3 prevented AD progression in angiotensin II-infused Best3SMKO and ApoE-/- mice.

Conclusions: These findings unveil a critical role of Best3 in regulating smooth muscle cell phenotypic switch and aortic structural integrity through controlling MEKK2/3 degradation. Best3-MEKK2/3 signaling represents a novel therapeutic target for AD.

Keywords: MAP kinase kinase kinases; aortic dissection; mitogen-activated protein kinases; myocytes, smooth muscle; phosphorylation; ubiquitination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aortic Dissection* / genetics
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular* / pathology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / pathology
  • Phosphorylation


  • Vmd2L3 protein, mouse