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Concept: Smooth muscle


Modeling clinically relevant tissue responses using cell models poses a significant challenge for drug development, in particular for drug induced liver injury (DILI). This is mainly because existing liver models lack longevity and tissue-level complexity which limits their utility in predictive toxicology. In this study, we established and characterized novel bioprinted human liver tissue mimetics comprised of patient-derived hepatocytes and non-parenchymal cells in a defined architecture. Scaffold-free assembly of different cell types in an in vivo-relevant architecture allowed for histologic analysis that revealed distinct intercellular hepatocyte junctions, CD31+ endothelial networks, and desmin positive, smooth muscle actin negative quiescent stellates. Unlike what was seen in 2D hepatocyte cultures, the tissues maintained levels of ATP, Albumin as well as expression and drug-induced enzyme activity of Cytochrome P450s over 4 weeks in culture. To assess the ability of the 3D liver cultures to model tissue-level DILI, dose responses of Trovafloxacin, a drug whose hepatotoxic potential could not be assessed by standard pre-clinical models, were compared to the structurally related non-toxic drug Levofloxacin. Trovafloxacin induced significant, dose-dependent toxicity at clinically relevant doses (≤ 4uM). Interestingly, Trovafloxacin toxicity was observed without lipopolysaccharide stimulation and in the absence of resident macrophages in contrast to earlier reports. Together, these results demonstrate that 3D bioprinted liver tissues can both effectively model DILI and distinguish between highly related compounds with differential profile. Thus, the combination of patient-derived primary cells with bioprinting technology here for the first time demonstrates superior performance in terms of mimicking human drug response in a known target organ at the tissue level.

Concepts: Glucose, Liver, Glycogen, Actin, Bile, Toxicology, Smooth muscle, Hepatocyte


There is a growing demand for in vitro assays for toxicity screening in three-dimensional (3D) environments. In this study, 3D cell culture using magnetic levitation was used to create an assay in which cells were patterned into 3D rings that close over time. The rate of closure was determined from time-lapse images taken with a mobile device and related to drug concentration. Rings of human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) and tracheal smooth muscle cells (SMCs) were tested with ibuprofen and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Ring closure correlated with the viability and migration of cells in two dimensions (2D). Images taken using a mobile device were similar in analysis to images taken with a microscope. Ring closure may serve as a promising label-free and quantitative assay for high-throughput in vivo toxicity in 3D cultures.

Concepts: Cardiac muscle, Cell culture, Urinary bladder, Actin, Computer graphics, Muscle contraction, Smooth muscle, HEK cell


Chronic treatment with angiotensin receptor blockers is largely accepted for protecting cerebral circulation during hypertension, but beneficial effects of short-term treatments are questionable, as highlighted by the recent SCAST trial. We compared the impact of 10 days treatment with candesartan (as SCAST) versus telmisartan (previously described to reverse arteriolar remodeling, chronic treatment) on pial arterioles of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). We explored whether PPAR-gamma agonist activity or AT(1) receptor blockade are involved in their differential effects. In the first study, 4-month-old male SHR were treated with telmisartan (TELMI, 2 mg/kg per day) or candesartan cilexetil (CANDE, 10 mg/kg per day) and compared to vehicle treated SHR and normotensive WKY. In a second study, SHR were treated with CANDE, pioglitazone (a PPAR-gamma agonist, PIO 2.5 mg/kg per day) or CANDE+PIO, compared to TELMI. Internal diameter of pial arterioles (ID, cranial window) was measured at baseline, during hemorrhage-induced hypotension, or following suffusion of Ang II (10(-6) mol/L) or EDTA inactivation of smooth muscle cells (passive ID). PPAR-gamma and eNOS (target gene of PPAR-gamma) mRNA were evaluated in brain microvessels. For similar antihypertensive effects, TELMI (+44% versus SHR), but not CANDE, increased baseline ID. During hemorrhage, ID in TELMI group was similar to WKY, while ID in SHR and CANDE remained lower. In the second study, TELMI (+36%, versus SHR) and CANDE+PIO (+43%) increased baseline ID, but not CANDE or PIO alone. TELMI (-66%) and CANDE+PIO (-69%), but neither CANDE nor PIO alone, decreased Ang II-induced vasoconstriction. CANDE+PIO, but not CANDE, increased passive ID. In both studies, PPAR-gamma and eNOS expressions were higher in TELMI than CANDE. Short-term treatment with TELMI, but not with CANDE, reverses narrowing of pial arteriolar ID in SHR. This may involve PPAR-gamma related mechanisms, since CANDE+PIO treatment induced similar effects, and a better blockade of AT(1) receptors.

Concepts: Hypertension, Blood pressure, Smooth muscle, Angiotensin, Angiotensin II receptor antagonist, Angiotensin receptor, Candesartan, Angiotensin II receptor antagonists


The recent discovery of meningeal lymphatic vessels (LVs) has raised interest in their possible involvement in neuropathological processes, yet little is known about their development or maintenance. We show here that meningeal LVs develop postnatally, appearing first around the foramina in the basal parts of the skull and spinal canal, sprouting along the blood vessels and cranial and spinal nerves to various parts of the meninges surrounding the central nervous system (CNS). VEGF-C, expressed mainly in vascular smooth muscle cells, and VEGFR3 in lymphatic endothelial cells were essential for their development, whereas VEGF-D deletion had no effect. Surprisingly, in adult mice, the LVs showed regression after VEGF-C or VEGFR3 deletion, administration of the tyrosine kinase inhibitor sunitinib, or expression of VEGF-C/D trap, which also compromised the lymphatic drainage function. Conversely, an excess of VEGF-C induced meningeal lymphangiogenesis. The plasticity and regenerative potential of meningeal LVs should allow manipulation of cerebrospinal fluid drainage and neuropathological processes in the CNS.

Concepts: Inflammation, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Brain, Blood vessel, Smooth muscle, Nerve, Meninges


Previous research has demonstrated that ClC-3 is responsible for volume-regulated Cl(-)current (ICl.vol) in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). However, it is still not clear whether and how ClC-3 is transported to cell membranes, resulting in alteration ofICl.vol.Methods and Results:Volume-regulated chloride current (ICl.vol) was recorded by whole-cell patch clamp recording, and Western blotting and co-immunoprecipitation were performed to examine protein expression and protein-protein interaction. Live cell imaging was used to observe ClC-3 transporting. The results showed that an overexpression of endophilin A2 could increaseICl.vol, while endophilin A2 knockdown decreasedICl.vol. In addition, the SH3 domain of endophilin A2 mediated its interaction with ClC-3 and promotes ClC-3 transportation from the cytoplasm to cell membranes. The regulation of ClC-3 channel activity was also verified in basilar arterial smooth muscle cells (BASMCs) isolated from endophilin A2 transgenic mice. Moreover, endophilin A2 increase VSMCs proliferation induced by endothelin-1 or hypo-osmolarity.

Concepts: Protein, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Cell membrane, Cytoplasm, Ion channel, Smooth muscle, Vascular smooth muscle


Vascular calcification is a risk factor that predicts adverse cardiovascular complications of several diseases including atherosclerosis. Reduced dietary potassium intake has been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and incidental stroke, although the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown. Using the ApoE-deficient mouse model, we demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that reduced dietary potassium (0.3%) promoted atherosclerotic vascular calcification and increased aortic stiffness, compared with normal (0.7%) potassium-fed mice. In contrast, increased dietary potassium (2.1%) attenuated vascular calcification and aortic stiffness. Mechanistically, reduction in the potassium concentration to the lower limit of the physiological range increased intracellular calcium, which activated a cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) signal that subsequently enhanced autophagy and promoted vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) calcification. Inhibition of calcium signals and knockdown of either CREB or ATG7, an autophagy regulator, attenuated VSMC calcification induced by low potassium. Consistently, elevated autophagy and CREB signaling were demonstrated in the calcified arteries from low potassium diet-fed mice as well as aortic arteries exposed to low potassium ex vivo. These studies established a potentially novel causative role of dietary potassium intake in regulating atherosclerotic vascular calcification and stiffness, and uncovered mechanisms that offer opportunities to develop therapeutic strategies to control vascular disease.

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Atherosclerosis, Blood vessel, Blood pressure, Artery, Smooth muscle, Potassium, Vascular smooth muscle


Mammalian biology adapts to physical activity but the molecular mechanisms sensing the activity remain enigmatic. Recent studies have revealed how Piezo1 protein senses mechanical force to enable vascular development. Here, we address Piezo1 in adult endothelium, the major control site in physical activity. Mice without endothelial Piezo1 lack obvious phenotype but close inspection reveals a specific effect on endothelium-dependent relaxation in mesenteric resistance artery. Strikingly, the Piezo1 is required for elevated blood pressure during whole body physical activity but not blood pressure during inactivity. Piezo1 is responsible for flow-sensitive non-inactivating non-selective cationic channels which depolarize the membrane potential. As fluid flow increases, depolarization increases to activate voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels in the adjacent vascular smooth muscle cells, causing vasoconstriction. Physical performance is compromised in mice which lack endothelial Piezo1 and there is weight loss after sustained activity. The data suggest that Piezo1 channels sense physical activity to advantageously reset vascular control.The mechanisms that regulate the body’s response to exercise are poorly understood. Here, Rode et al. show that the mechanically activated cation channel Piezo1 is a molecular sensor of physical exercise in the endothelium that triggers endothelial communication to mesenteric vessel muscle cells, leading to vasoconstriction.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Heart, Blood vessel, Obesity, Muscle, Physical exercise, Artery, Smooth muscle


Vasoactive liabilities are typically assayed using wire myography, which is limited by its high cost and low throughput. To meet the demand for higher throughput in vitro alternatives, this study introduces a magnetic 3D bioprinting-based vasoactivity assay. The principle behind this assay is the magnetic printing of vascular smooth muscle cells into 3D rings that functionally represent blood vessel segments, whose contraction can be altered by vasodilators and vasoconstrictors. A cost-effective imaging modality employing a mobile device is used to capture contraction with high throughput. The goal of this study was to validate ring contraction as a measure of vasoactivity, using a small panel of known vasoactive drugs. In vitro responses of the rings matched outcomes predicted by in vivo pharmacology, and were supported by immunohistochemistry. Altogether, this ring assay robustly models vasoactivity, which could meet the need for higher throughput in vitro alternatives.

Concepts: Blood vessel, Cardiac muscle, Actin, Artery, Muscle contraction, Smooth muscle, Muscular system, Vascular smooth muscle


Tissue engineering approaches have the potential to increase the physiologic relevance of human iPS-derived cells, such as cardiomyocytes (iPS-CM). However, forming Engineered Heart Muscle (EHM) typically requires >1 million cells per tissue. Existing miniaturization strategies involve complex approaches not amenable to mass production, limiting the ability to use EHM for iPS-based disease modeling and drug screening. Micro-scale cardiospheres are easily produced, but do not facilitate assembly of elongated muscle or direct force measurements. Here we describe an approach that combines features of EHM and cardiospheres: Micro-Heart Muscle (μHM) arrays, in which elongated muscle fibers are formed in an easily fabricated template, with as few as 2,000 iPS-CM per individual tissue. Within μHM, iPS-CM exhibit uniaxial contractility and alignment, robust sarcomere assembly, and reduced variability and hypersensitivity in drug responsiveness, compared to monolayers with the same cellular composition. μHM mounted onto standard force measurement apparatus exhibited a robust Frank-Starling response to external stretch, and a dose-dependent inotropic response to the β-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol. Based on the ease of fabrication, the potential for mass production and the small number of cells required to form μHM, this system provides a potentially powerful tool to study cardiomyocyte maturation, disease and cardiotoxicology in vitro.

Concepts: Heart, Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Skeletal muscle, Smooth muscle, Muscular system, Sarcomere, Troponin


Migraine is a debilitating neurological disorder affecting around one in seven people worldwide, but its molecular mechanisms remain poorly understood. There is some debate about whether migraine is a disease of vascular dysfunction or a result of neuronal dysfunction with secondary vascular changes. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have thus far identified 13 independent loci associated with migraine. To identify new susceptibility loci, we carried out a genetic study of migraine on 59,674 affected subjects and 316,078 controls from 22 GWA studies. We identified 44 independent single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) significantly associated with migraine risk (P < 5 × 10(-8)) that mapped to 38 distinct genomic loci, including 28 loci not previously reported and a locus that to our knowledge is the first to be identified on chromosome X. In subsequent computational analyses, the identified loci showed enrichment for genes expressed in vascular and smooth muscle tissues, consistent with a predominant theory of migraine that highlights vascular etiologies.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Chromosome, Single-nucleotide polymorphism, Smooth muscle