Histone deacetylase inhibitors synergize with sildenafil to suppress purine metabolism and proliferation in pulmonary hypertension

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RATIONALE: Sildenafil, a well-known vasodilator known to interfere with purinergic signaling through effects on cGMP, is a mainstay in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, little is known regarding its effects on the metabolic reprogramming of vascular cells, which is a hallmark of PH. Purine metabolism, especially intracellular de novo purine biosynthesis is essential for vascular cell proliferation. Since adventitial fibroblasts are critical contributors to proliferative vascular remodeling in PH, in this study we aimed to investigate if sildenafil, beyond its well-known vasodilator role in smooth muscle cells, impacts intracellular purine metabolism and proliferation of fibroblasts derived from human PH patients. METHODS: Integrated omics approaches (plasma and cell metabolomics) and pharmacological inhibitor approaches were employed in plasma samples and cultured pulmonary artery fibroblasts from PH patients. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Plasma metabolome analysis of 27 PH patients before and after treatment with sildenafil, demonstrated a partial, but specific effect of sildenafil on purine metabolites, especially adenosine, adenine, and xanthine. However, circulating markers of cell stress, including lactate, succinate, and hypoxanthine were only decreased in a small subset of sildenafil-treated patients. To better understand potential effects of sildenafil on pathological changes in purine metabolism (especially purine synthesis) in PH, we performed studies on pulmonary fibroblasts from PAH patients (PH-Fibs) and corresponding controls (CO-Fibs), since these cells have previously been shown to demonstrate stable and marked PH associated phenotypic and metabolic changes. We found that PH-Fibs exhibited significantly increased purine synthesis. Treatment of PH-Fibs with sildenafil was insufficient to normalize cellular metabolic phenotype and only modestly attenuated the proliferation. However, we observed that treatments which have been shown to normalize glycolysis and mitochondrial abnormalities including a PKM2 activator (TEPP-46), and the histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi), SAHA and Apicidin, had significant inhibitory effects on purine synthesis. Importantly, combined treatment with HDACi and sildenafil exhibited synergistic inhibitory effects on proliferation and metabolic reprogramming in PH-Fibs. CONCLUSIONS: While sildenafil alone partially rescues metabolic alterations associated with PH, treatment with HDACi, in combination with sildenafil, represent a promising and potentially more effective strategy for targeting vasoconstriction, metabolic derangement and pathological vascular remodeling in PH.

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Vascular pharmacology





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