Polymorphisms in the human KALRN gene have been associated with both coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke. The ~320 kDa protein Kalirin contains two guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) domains--RhoGEF1 activates Rac and RhoGEF2 activates RhoA--as well as numerous protein-protein interaction domains. We have found that Kalirin is expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs), macrophages and endothelial cells, and that Kalirin promotes SMC Rac1 signaling, migration and proliferation. We also found that Kalrn(-/+) mice develop less neointimal hyperplasia after wire-mediated carotid artery endothelial denudation, but that Kalrn(-/+)/Apoe(-/-) mice develop less atherosclerosis than congenic Apoe(-/-) mice. This project will therefore test the hypothesis that Kalirin protects against atherogenesis, either through its RhoGEF or other protein-protein interaction domains, specifically in endothelial cells or macrophages. To that end, Aim 1 will study the effects on aortic atherosclerosis of inhibiting Kalirin's RhoGEF1 domain or iNOS, an enzyme whose activity is inhibited by Kalirin, in Apoe(-/-) mice that are (+/+) or (-/+) at the Kaln locus.
Aim 2 will determine endothelial cell-specific Kalirin anti-atherogenic mechanisms by comparing Apoe(-/- )/Kalrn(flox/+) mice with tamoxifen-inducible, endothelial cell-specific Cre expression (VECad-Cre-ER[T2]). Potential endothelial cell-specific anti-atherogenic mechanisms of Kalirin will be discerned in vitro by defining Kalirin's Rac- and Rho-GEF activity in endothelial cells, comparing flow-promoted anti-inflammatory activity between Kalrn(-/+) and WT endothelial cells, and by defining the endothelial cell proteins that associate with Kalirin using metabolically labeled endothelial cells and mass spectrometry.
Aim 3 will determine whether macrophage Kalirin affects atherosclerosis, by comparing Apoe(-/-)/Kalrn(flox/+) mice that are either LysM- Cre+ or not. Potential macrophage-specific Kalirin mechanisms will be tested by comparing Kalrn(-/+) and WT macrophages with regard to (a) cytokine-induced RhoA and Rac activation, and (b) secretion of the anti- inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10. Together, these studies will establish cellular and molecular mechanisms by which Kalirin reduces atherosclerosis, and may reveal novel targets for anti-atherosclerosis therapy.
In determining cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the protein Kalirin protects against atherosclerosis, this project should identify gene products and molecular mechanisms that may serve as novel therapeutic targets for treating humans with atherosclerosis.