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    Bcr and Abr are GTPase activating proteins that specifically downregulate activity of the small GTPase Rac in restricted cell types in vivo. Rac1 is expressed in smooth muscle cells, a critical cell type involved in the pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension. The molecular mechanisms that underlie hypoxia-associated pulmonary hypertension are not well-defined. Bcr and abr null mutant mice were compared to wild type controls for the development of pulmonary hypertension after exposure to hypoxia. Also, pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells from those mice were cultured in hypoxia and examined for proliferation, p38 activation and IL-6 production. Mice lacking Bcr or Abr exposed to hypoxia developed increased right ventricular pressure, hypertrophy and pulmonary vascular remodeling. Perivascular leukocyte infiltration in the lungs was increased, and under hypoxia bcr-/- and abr-/- macrophages generated more reactive oxygen species. Consistent with a contribution of inflammation and oxidative stress in pulmonary hypertension-associated vascular damage, Bcr and Abr-deficient animals showed elevated endothelial leakage after hypoxia exposure. Hypoxia-treated pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells from Bcr- or Abr-deficient mice also proliferated faster than those of wild type mice. Moreover, activated Rac1, phosphorylated p38 and interleukin 6 were increased in these cells in the absence of Bcr or Abr. Inhibition of Rac1 activation with Z62954982, a novel Rac inhibitor, decreased proliferation, p38 phosphorylation and IL-6 levels in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells exposed to hypoxia. Bcr and Abr play a critical role in down-regulating hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension by deactivating Rac1 and, through this, reducing both oxidative stress generated by leukocytes as well as p38 phosphorylation, IL-6 production and proliferation of pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells.


    Min Yu, Dapeng Gong, Min Lim, Anna Arutyunyan, John Groffen, Nora Heisterkamp. Lack of bcr and abr promotes hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension in mice. PloS one. 2012;7(11):e49756

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    PMID: 23152932

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