The RNA-Binding Protein Quaking is a Critical Regulator of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Phenotype
Rationale: RNA-binding proteins are critical post-transcriptional regulators of RNA, and can influence pre-mRNA splicing, RNA localization, and stability. The RNA-binding protein Quaking (QKI) is essential for embryonic blood vessel development. However, the role of QKI in the adult vasculature, and in particular in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), is currently unknown.
Objective: We sought to determine the role of the RNA-binding protein Quaking (QKI) in regulating adult VSMC function and plasticity.
Methods and Results: We identified that the RNA-binding protein Quaking (QKI) is highly expressed by neointimal VSMCs of human coronary restenotic lesions, but not in healthy vessels. In a mouse model of vascular injury, we observed reduced neointima hyperplasia in Qkv mice, which have decreased QKI expression. Concordantly, abrogation of QKI attenuated fibroproliferative properties of VSMCs, while potently inducing contractile apparatus protein expression, rendering non-contractile VSMCs with the capacity to contract. We identified that QKI localizes to the spliceosome, where it interacts with the myocardin pre-mRNA and regulates the splicing of alternative exon 2a. This post-transcriptional event impacts the Myocd_v3 / Myocd_v1 mRNA balance, and can be modulated by mutating the quaking response element in exon 2a of myocardin. Furthermore, we identified that arterial damage triggers myocardin alternative splicing and is tightly coupled with changes in the expression levels of distinct QKI isoforms.
Conclusions: We propose that QKI is a central regulator of VSMC phenotypic plasticity and that intervention in QKI activity can ameliorate pathogenic, fibroproliferative responses to vascular injury.
- RNA-binding protein Quaking
- phenotypic plasticity
- alternative splicing
- smooth muscle cell
- vascular remodeling
- Received March 12, 2013.
- Revision received August 8, 2013.
- Accepted August 20, 2013.