Hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension (PH) is one of the most common and deadliest forms of PH. Fibroblast growth factor receptors 1 and 2 (FGFR1/2) are elevated in patients with PH and in mice exposed to chronic hypoxia. Endothelial FGFR1/2 signaling is important for the adaptive response to several injury types and we hypothesized that endothelial FGFR1/2 signaling would protect against hypoxia-induced PH. Mice lacking endothelial FGFR1/2, mice with activated endothelial FGFR signaling, and human pulmonary artery endothelial cells (HPAECs) were challenged with hypoxia. We assessed the effect of FGFR activation and inhibition on right ventricular pressure, vascular remodeling, and endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT), a known pathologic change seen in patients with PH. Hypoxia-exposed mice lacking endothelial FGFRs developed increased PH, while mice overexpressing a constitutively active FGFR in endothelial cells did not develop PH. Mechanistically, lack of endothelial FGFRs or inhibition of FGFRs in HPAECs led to increased TGF-β signaling and increased EndMT in response to hypoxia. These phenotypes were reversed in mice with activated endothelial FGFR signaling, suggesting that FGFR signaling inhibits TGF-β pathway–mediated EndMT during chronic hypoxia. Consistent with these observations, lung tissue from patients with PH showed activation of FGFR and TGF-β signaling. Collectively, these data suggest that activation of endothelial FGFR signaling could be therapeutic for hypoxia-induced PH.
Kel Vin Woo, Isabel Y. Shen, Carla J. Weinheimer, Attila Kovacs, Jessica Nigro, Chieh-Yu Lin, Murali Chakinala, Derek E. Byers, David M. Ornitz
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