Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (vEDS) is a dominantly inherited connective tissue disorder caused by mutations in the COL3A1 gene that encodes type III collagen (COLLIII), which is the major expressed collagen in blood vessels and hollow organs. The majority of disease-causing variants in COL3A1 are glycine substitutions and in-frame splice mutations in the triple helix domain that through a dominant negative effect are associated with the severe clinical spectrum potentially lethal of vEDS, characterized by fragility of soft connective tissues with arterial and organ ruptures. To shed lights into molecular mechanisms underlying vEDS, we performed gene expression profiling in cultured skin fibroblasts from three patients with different structural COL3A1 mutations. Transcriptome analysis revealed significant changes in the expression levels of several genes involved in maintenance of cell redox and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis, COLLs folding and extracellular matrix (ECM) organization, formation of the proteasome complex, and cell cycle regulation. Protein analyses showed that aberrant COLLIII expression is associated with the disassembly of many structural ECM constituents, such as fibrillins, EMILINs, and elastin, as well as with the reduction of the proteoglycans perlecan, decorin, and versican, all playing an important role in the vascular system. Furthermore, the altered distribution of the ER marker protein disulfide isomerase PDI and the strong reduction of the COLLs-modifying enzyme FKBP22 are consistent with the disturbance of ER-related homeostasis and COLLs biosynthesis and post-translational modifications, indicated by microarray analysis. Our findings add new insights into the pathophysiology of this severe vascular disorder, since they provide a picture of the gene expression changes in vEDS skin fibroblasts and highlight that dominant negative mutations in COL3A1 also affect post-translational modifications and deposition into the ECM of several structural proteins crucial to the integrity of soft connective tissues.
Chiarelli, N., Carini, G., Zoppi, N., Ritelli, M., & Colombi, M. (2018). Transcriptome analysis of skin fibroblasts with dominant negative COL3A1 mutations provides molecular insights into the etiopathology of vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. PLoS ONE, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191220