Heterozygous elastin gene mutations cause autosomal dominant cutis laxa associated with emphysema and aortic aneurysms. To investigate the molecular mechanisms leading to cutis laxa in vivo, we generated transgenic mice by pronuclear injection of minigenes encoding normal human tropoelastin (WT) or tropoelastin with a cutis laxa mutation (CL). Three independent founder lines of CL mice showed emphysematous pulmonary airspace enlargement. No consistent dermatological or cardiovascular pathologies were observed. One CL and one WT line were selected for detailed studies. Both mutant and control transgenic animals showed elastin deposition into pulmonary elastic fibers, indicated by increased desmosine levels in the lung and by colocalization of transgenic and endogenous elastin by immunostaining. CL mice showed increased static lung compliance and decreased stiffness of lung tissue. In addition, markers of transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signaling and the unfolded protein response (UPR) were elevated together with increased apoptosis in the lungs of CL animals. We conclude that the synthesis of mutant elastin in CL activates multiple downstream disease pathways by triggering a UPR, altered mechanical signaling, increased release of TGFβ and apoptosis. We propose that the combined effects of these processes lead to the development of an emphysematous pulmonary phenotype in CL.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Growth factor
- Transgenic mouse
- Unfolded protein response