A recent study demonstrated a significant role for leukotriene B4 (LTB4) causing pulmonary vascular remodeling in pulmonary arterial hypertension. LTB4 was found to directly injure luminal endothelial cells and promote growth of the smooth muscle cell layer of pulmonary arterioles. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of LTB4 on the pulmonary adventitial layer, largely composed of fibroblasts. Here, we demonstrate that LTB4 enhanced human pulmonary artery adventitial fibroblast proliferation, migration, and differentiation in a dose-dependent manner through its cognate G-protein-coupled receptor, BLT1. LTB4 activated human pulmonary artery adventitial fibroblast by upregulating p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase as well as Nox4-signaling pathways. In an autoimmune model of pulmonary hypertension, inhibition of these pathways blocked perivascular inflammation, decreased Nox4 expression, reduced reactive oxygen species production, reversed arteriolar adventitial fibroblast activation, and attenuated pulmonary hypertension development. This study uncovers a novel mechanism by which LTB4 further promotes pulmonary arterial hypertension pathogenesis, beyond its established effects on endothelial and smooth muscle cells, by activating adventitial fibroblasts.
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Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a serious condition that affects mainly young and middle-aged women, and its etiology is poorly understood. A prominent pathological feature of PH is accumulation of macrophages near the arterioles of the lung. In both clinical tissue and the SU5416 (SU)/athymic rat model of severe PH, we found that the accumulated macrophages expressed high levels of leukotriene A4 hydrolase (LTA4H), the biosynthetic enzyme for leukotriene B4 (LTB4). Moreover, macrophage-derived LTB4 directly induced apoptosis in pulmonary artery endothelial cells (PAECs). Further, LTB4 induced proliferation and hypertrophy of human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells. We found that LTB4 acted through its receptor, BLT1, to induce PAEC apoptosis by inhibiting the protective endothelial sphingosine kinase 1 (Sphk1)-endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) pathway. Blocking LTA4H decreased in vivo LTB4 levels, prevented PAEC apoptosis, restored Sphk1-eNOS signaling, and reversed fulminant PH in the SU/athymic rat model of PH. Antagonizing BLT1 similarly reversed established PH. Inhibition of LTB4 biosynthesis or signal transduction in SU-treated athymic rats with established disease also improved cardiac function and reopened obstructed arterioles; this approach was also effective in the monocrotaline model of severe PH. Human plexiform lesions, one hallmark of PH, showed increased numbers of macrophages, which expressed LTA4H, and patients with connective tissue disease-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension exhibited significantly higher LTB4 concentrations in the systemic circulation than did healthy subjects. These results uncover a possible role for macrophage-derived LTB4 in PH pathogenesis and identify a pathway that may be amenable to therapeutic targeting.
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