Pulmonary arteries of Williams syndrome patients exhibit altered serotonin metabolism genes and degenerated medial layer architecture
Williams–Beuren syndrome (WS) is characterized by cardiovascular abnormalities associated with a multigene deletion on 7q11.23, in particular elastin (ELN). Peripheral pulmonary artery stenosis (PPAS) frequently affects pediatric patients with WS. Molecular investigation of WS pulmonary arterial (PA) tissue is limited by tissue scarcity.
We compared transcriptomes, tissue architecture, and localized changes in protein expression in PA tissue from patients with WS (n = 8) and donors (n = 5).
Over 100 genes were differentially expressed at the ≥4-fold level, including genes related to the serotonin signaling pathway: >60-fold downregulation of serotonin transporter SLC6A4 and >3-fold upregulation of serotonin receptor HTR2A. Histologic examination revealed abnormal elastin distribution and smooth muscle cell morphology in WS PA, with markedly shorter, disorganized elastin fibers, and expanded proteoglycan-rich extracellular matrix between muscle layers.
There were significant abnormalities in the PA expression of genes regulating serotonin signaling, metabolism, and receptors in WS. Those changes were associated with distinct changes in the arterial structure and may play a role in the stenosis-promoting effects of elevated shear stress at PA bifurcations in WS.
- Serotonin pathway signaling is significantly altered in the pulmonary arteries of patients with Williams syndrome and severe peripheral arterial stenosis.
- The present study compares the histological and biochemical characteristics of pulmonary arteries from patients with Williams syndrome to those of controls, something that has not, to our knowledge, been done previously. It demonstrates marked abnormalities in the pulmonary arteries of patients with Williams syndrome, especially significant pathologic alterations in the signaling of the serotonin pathway.
- The findings of this study provide direction for the development of potential therapies to treat pulmonary artery stenosis in patients with Williams syndrome.