Frictional forces exerted by blood flow on the vascular endothelium play an essential role in atherosclerosis, as well as aneurysm growth and pathological vascular remodeling. The endothelium expresses a similar profile of atheroprone, pro-inflammatory genes in response to low and oscillatory flow in all of these responses, suggesting fundamental molecular similarities. Although some of the immediate shear responsive signaling pathways have been identified, the downstream signaling which coordinates the vascular response remains unclear. Since vascular disease, the greatest cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, is primarily caused by the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, understanding the mediators of the vascular response to altered blood flow is of critical importance. The extracellular matrix proteins underlying the endothelium dictat the inflammatory response to altered flow. A specific form of the secreted fibronectin protein, generated by alternative splicing of the constitutive transcript and normally absent in quiescent adult vasculature, is highly expressed in atherosclerotic lesions and other inflammatory vascular pathologies, such as aneurysm and neointima formation. Genetic mutations which prevent the formation of this isoform impair atherosclerosis in mice, but how this splicing is regulated and it biological consequences remain unclear. I hypothesize that alternative splicing of fibronectin in the endothelium is increased in response to atheroprone blood flow, and that the inclusion of alternative exons promotes atherosclerosis progression by promoting inflammatory cell recruitment and activation. To test this I will (1) Examine alternative splicing of fibronectin in response to atheroprone flow in vivo by molecular analysis of carotid arteries experimentally exposed to increased or decreased blood flow. I will then (2) Test the effect of deficient fibronectin splicing on monocyte recruitment/differentiation in the carotid arteries of mice unable to produce specific (EIIIA and EIIIB) fibronectin isoforms. Finally, I will (3) Identify the regulaors of alternative splicing in the endothelial response to flow by using barcoded shRNA to screen endothelial cells expressing a fluorescent FN splicing reporter in vitro.

Public Health Relevance

Through alternative splicing, genes may encode diverse and even opposing protein functions. Thus, the regulation of alternative splicing by spliceosome complexes enables global regulation of protein function. We propose to test the regulation and function of alternative splicing of fibronectin, a critical component of extracellular matrix underlying the vascular endothelium in inflammatory vascular disease processes, such as atherosclerosis, aneurysm and restenosis.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F32)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F10A-S (20))
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Meadows, Tawanna
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Murphy, Patrick A; Begum, Shahinoor; Hynes, Richard O (2015) Tumor angiogenesis in the absence of fibronectin or its cognate integrin receptors. PLoS One 10:e0120872
Murphy, Patrick A; Hynes, Richard O (2014) Alternative splicing of endothelial fibronectin is induced by disturbed hemodynamics and protects against hemorrhage of the vessel wall. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 34:2042-50