RATIONALE: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is characterized by pulmonary vascular remodeling with aberrant pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) proliferation, endothelial dysfunction, and extracellular matrix remodeling. OBJECTIVE: Right ventricular (RV) failure is an important prognostic factor in PAH. Thus, we need to elucidate a novel therapeutic target in both PAH and RV failure. METHODS AND RESULTS: We performed microarray analysis in PASMCs from patients with PAH (PAH-PASMCs) and controls. We found a ADAMTS8 (disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs 8), a secreted protein specifically expressed in the lung and the heart, was upregulated in PAH-PASMCs and the lung in hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension (PH) in mice. To elucidate the role of ADAMTS8 in PH, we used vascular smooth muscle cell-specific ADAMTS8-knockout mice (ADAMTSΔSM22). Hypoxia-induced PH was attenuated in ADAMTSΔSM22 mice compared with controls. ADAMTS8 overexpression increased PASMC proliferation with downregulation of AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase). In contrast, deletion of ADAMTS8 reduced PASMC proliferation with AMPK upregulation. Moreover, deletion of ADAMTS8 reduced mitochondrial fragmentation under hypoxia in vivo and in vitro. Indeed, PASMCs harvested from ADAMTSΔSM22 mice demonstrated that phosphorylated DRP-1 (dynamin-related protein 1) at Ser637 was significantly upregulated with higher expression of profusion genes (Mfn1 and Mfn2) and improved mitochondrial function. Moreover, recombinant ADAMTS8 induced endothelial dysfunction and matrix metalloproteinase activation in an autocrine/paracrine manner. Next, to elucidate the role of ADAMTS8 in RV function, we developed a cardiomyocyte-specific ADAMTS8 knockout mice (ADAMTS8ΔαMHC). ADAMTS8ΔαMHC mice showed ameliorated RV failure in response to chronic hypoxia. In addition, ADAMTS8ΔαMHC mice showed enhanced angiogenesis and reduced RV ischemia and fibrosis. Finally, high-throughput screening revealed that mebendazole, which is used for treatment of parasite infections, reduced ADAMTS8 expression and cell proliferation in PAH-PASMCs and ameliorated PH and RV failure in PH rodent models. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that ADAMTS8 is a novel therapeutic target in PAH.
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