Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by a progressive accumulation of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PA-SMCs) in pulmonary arterioles leading to the narrowing of the lumen, right heart failure, and death. Although most studies have supported the notion of a role for IL-6/glycoprotein 130 (gp130) signaling in PAH, it remains unclear how this signaling pathway determines the progression of the disease. Here, we identify ectopic upregulation of membrane-bound IL-6 receptor (IL6R) on PA-SMCs in PAH patients and in rodent models of pulmonary hypertension (PH) and demonstrate its key role for PA-SMC accumulation in vitro and in vivo. Using Sm22a-Cre Il6rfl/fl, which lack Il6r in SM22A-expressing cells, we found that these animals are protected against chronic hypoxia–induced PH with reduced PA-SMC accumulation, revealing the potent pro-survival potential of membrane-bound IL6R. Moreover, we determine that treatment with IL6R-specific antagonist reverses experimental PH in two rat models. This therapeutic strategy holds promise for future clinical studies in PAH.
Yuichi Tamura, Carole Phan, Ly Tu, Morane Le Hiress, Raphaël Thuillet, Etienne-Marie Jutant, Elie Fadel, Laurent Savale, Alice Huertas, Marc Humbert, Christophe Guignabert
rHuIL-6 exaggerates the apoptosis-resistant phenotype in iPAH PA-SMCs.