Knockout of vascular smooth muscle EGF receptor in a mouse model prevents obesity-induced vascular dysfunction and renal damage in vivo.

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Obesity causes type 2 diabetes leading to vascular dysfunction and finally renal end-organ damage. Vascular smooth muscle (VSM) EGF receptor (EGFR) modulates vascular wall homeostasis in part via serum response factor (SRF), a major regulator of VSM differentiation and a sensor for glucose. We investigated the role of VSM-EGFR during obesity-induced renovascular dysfunction, as well as EGFR-hyperglycaemia crosstalk.The role of VSM-EGFR during high-fat diet (HFD)-induced type 2 diabetes was investigated in a mouse model with inducible, VSM-specific EGFR-knockout (KO). Various structural and functional variables as well as transcriptome changes, in vivo and ex vivo, were assessed. The impact of hyperglycaemia on EGFR-induced signalling and SRF transcriptional activity and the underlying mechanisms were investigated at the cellular level.We show that VSM-EGFR mediates obesity/type 2 diabetes-induced vascular dysfunction, remodelling and transcriptome dysregulation preceding renal damage and identify an EGFR-glucose synergism in terms of SRF activation, matrix dysregulation and mitochondrial function. EGFR deletion protects the animals from HFD-induced endothelial dysfunction, creatininaemia and albuminuria. Furthermore, we show that HFD leads to marked changes of the aortic transcriptome in wild-type but not in KO animals, indicative of EGFR-dependent SRF activation, matrix dysregulation and mitochondrial dysfunction, the latter confirmed at the cellular level. Studies at the cellular level revealed that high glucose potentiated EGFR/EGF receptor 2 (ErbB2)-induced stimulation of SRF activity, enhancing the graded signalling responses to EGF, via the EGFR/ErbB2-ROCK-actin-MRTF pathway and promoted mitochondrial dysfunction.VSM-EGFR contributes to HFD-induced vascular and subsequent renal alterations. We propose that a potentiated EGFR/ErbB2-ROCK-MRTF-SRF signalling axis and mitochondrial dysfunction underlie the role of EGFR. This advanced working hypothesis will be investigated in mechanistic depth in future studies. VSM-EGFR may be a therapeutic target in cases of type 2 diabetes-induced renovascular disease.The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in: (1) share_it, the data repository of the academic libraries of Saxony-Anhalt (https://doi.org/10.25673/32049.2); and (2) in the gene expression omnibus database with the study identity GSE144838 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/query/acc.cgi?acc=GSE144838). Graphical abstract.


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