The Journal of biological chemistry

Notch transcriptional control of vascular smooth muscle regulatory gene expression and function.

PMID 23482558


Notch receptors and ligands mediate heterotypic cell signaling that is required for normal vascular development. Dysregulation of select Notch receptors in mouse vascular smooth muscle (VSM) and in genetic human syndromes causes functional impairment in some regional circulations, the mechanistic basis of which is undefined. In this study, we used a dominant-negative Mastermind-like (DNMAML1) to block signaling through all Notch receptors specifically in VSM to more broadly test a functional role for this pathway in vivo. Mutant DNMAML1-expressing mice exhibited blunted blood pressure responses to vasoconstrictors, and their aortic, femoral, and mesenteric arteries had reduced contractile responses to agonists and depolarization in vitro. The mutant arteries had significant and specific reduction in the expression and activity of myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), a primary regulator of VSM force production. Conversely, activated Notch signaling in VSM cells induced endogenous MLCK transcript levels. We identified MLCK as a direct target of activated Notch receptor as demonstrated by an evolutionarily conserved Notch-responsive element within the MLCK promoter that binds the Notch receptor complex and is required for transcriptional activity. We conclude that Notch signaling through the transcriptional control of key regulatory proteins is required for contractile responses of mature VSM. Genetic or pharmacological manipulation of Notch signaling is a potential strategy for modulating arterial function in human disease.