All Publications

  • Potential long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the pulmonary vasculature: Multilayered cross-talks in the setting of coinfections and comorbidities. PLoS pathogens Kumar, R., Aktay-Cetin, Ö., Craddock, V., Morales-Cano, D., Kosanovic, D., Cogolludo, A., Perez-Vizcaino, F., Avdeev, S., Kumar, A., Ram, A. K., Agarwal, S., Chakraborty, A., Savai, R., de Jesus Perez, V., Graham, B. B., Butrous, G., Dhillon, N. K. 2023; 19 (1): e1011063


    The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its sublineages pose a new challenge to healthcare systems worldwide due to its ability to efficiently spread in immunized populations and its resistance to currently available therapies. COVID-19, although targeting primarily the respiratory system, is also now well established that later affects every organ in the body. Most importantly, despite the available therapy and vaccine-elicited protection, the long-term consequences of viral infection in breakthrough and asymptomatic individuals are areas of concern. In the past two years, investigators accumulated evidence on how the virus triggers our immune system and the molecular signals involved in the cross-talk between immune cells and structural cells in the pulmonary vasculature to drive pathological lung complications such as endothelial dysfunction and thrombosis. In the review, we emphasize recent updates on the pathophysiological inflammatory and immune responses associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and their potential long-term consequences that may consequently lead to the development of pulmonary vascular diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011063

    View details for PubMedID 36634048

  • Novel TRAF2 variant and KDR deletion are implicated in the pathogenesis of pulmonary arterial hypertension Gallego, N., Pienkos, S., Condon, D., Cruz, A., Ochoa, N., Nevado, J., Arias, P., Agarwal, S., Patel, H., Chakraborty, A., Lapunzina, P., Escribano, P., de Jesus, V., Tenorio, J. SPRINGERNATURE. 2022: 197-198
  • "NOVEL MECHANISMS TARGETED BY DRUG TRIALS IN PULMONARY ARTERIAL HYPERTENSION". Chest Condon, D. F., Agarwal, S., Chakraborty, A., Auer, N., Vazquez, R., Patel, H., Zamanian, R. T., de Jesus Perez, V. A., Condon, D. F. 2021


    Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a rare disease associated with abnormally elevated pulmonary pressures and right heart failure resulting in high morbidity and mortality. While PAH prognosis has improved with the introduction of pulmonary vasodilators, disease progression remains a major problem. Given that available therapies are inadequate for preventing small vessel loss and obstruction, there is an active interest in identifying drugs capable of targeting angiogenesis and mechanisms involved in regulation of cell growth and fibrosis. Among the mechanisms linked to PAH pathogenesis, recent preclinical studies have identified promising compounds that are currently being tested in clinical trials. These drugs target seven of the major mechanisms associated with PAH pathogenesis: BMP signaling, tyrosine kinase receptors, estrogen metabolism, extracellular matrix, angiogenesis, epigenetics, and serotonin metabolism. In this review, we will discuss the preclinical studies that led to prioritization of these mechanisms and will discuss recently completed and ongoing phase 2/3 trials using novel interventions such as sotatercept, anastrozole, rodatristat ethyl, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and endothelial progenitor cells among others. We anticipate that the next generation of compounds will build upon the success of the current standard of care and improve clinical outcomes and quality of life of patients afflicted with PAH.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.chest.2021.10.010

    View details for PubMedID 34655569

  • Lung Pericytes in Pulmonary Vascular Physiology and Pathophysiology. Comprehensive Physiology Yuan, K., Agarwal, S., Chakraborty, A., Condon, D. F., Patel, H., Zhang, S., Huang, F., Mello, S. A., Kirk, O. I., Vasquez, R., de Jesus Perez, V. A. 2021; 11 (3): 2227-2247


    Pericytes are mesenchymal-derived mural cells localized within the basement membrane of pulmonary and systemic capillaries. Besides structural support, pericytes control vascular tone, produce extracellular matrix components, and cytokines responsible for promoting vascular homeostasis and angiogenesis. However, pericytes can also contribute to vascular pathology through the production of pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic cytokines, differentiation into myofibroblast-like cells, destruction of the extracellular matrix, and dissociation from the vessel wall. In the lung, pericytes are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the alveolar-capillary membrane and coordinating vascular repair in response to injury. Loss of pericyte communication with alveolar capillaries and a switch to a pro-inflammatory/pro-fibrotic phenotype are common features of lung disorders associated with vascular remodeling, inflammation, and fibrosis. In this article, we will address how to differentiate pericytes from other cells, discuss the molecular mechanisms that regulate the interactions of pericytes and endothelial cells in the pulmonary circulation, and the experimental tools currently used to study pericyte biology both in vivo and in vitro. We will also discuss evidence that links pericytes to the pathogenesis of clinically relevant lung disorders such as pulmonary hypertension, idiopathic lung fibrosis, sepsis, and SARS-COVID. Future studies dissecting the complex interactions of pericytes with other pulmonary cell populations will likely reveal critical insights into the origin of pulmonary diseases and offer opportunities to develop novel therapeutics to treat patients afflicted with these devastating disorders. © 2021 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 11:2227-2247, 2021.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/cphy.c200027

    View details for PubMedID 34190345

  • Novel TNIP2 and TRAF2 Variants Are Implicated in the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension FRONTIERS IN MEDICINE Pienkos, S., Gallego, N., Condon, D. F., Cruz-Utrilla, A., Ochoa, N., Nevado, J., Arias, P., Agarwal, S., Patel, H., Chakraborty, A., Lapunzina, P., Escribano, P., Tenorio-Castano, J., de Jesus Perez, V. A., Spanish PAH Consortium 2021; 8: 625763


    Background: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a rare disease characterized by pulmonary vascular remodeling and right heart failure. Specific genetic variants increase the incidence of PAH in carriers with a family history of PAH, those who suffer from certain medical conditions, and even those with no apparent risk factors. Inflammation and immune dysregulation are related to vascular remodeling in PAH, but whether genetic susceptibility modifies the PAH immune response is unclear. TNIP2 and TRAF2 encode for immunomodulatory proteins that regulate NF-κB activation, a transcription factor complex associated with inflammation and vascular remodeling in PAH. Methods: Two unrelated families with PAH cases underwent whole-exome sequencing (WES). A custom pipeline for variant prioritization was carried out to obtain candidate variants. To determine the impact of TNIP2 and TRAF2 in cell proliferation, we performed an MTS [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium] assay on healthy lung pericytes transfected with siRNA specific for each gene. To measure the effect of loss of TNIP2 and TRAF2 on NF-kappa-beta (NF-κB) activity, we measured levels of Phospho-p65-NF-κB in siRNA-transfected pericytes using western immunoblotting. Results: We discovered a novel missense variant in the TNIP2 gene in two affected individuals from the same family. The two patients had a complex form of PAH with interatrial communication and scleroderma. In the second family, WES of the proband with PAH and primary biliary cirrhosis revealed a de novo protein-truncating variant in the TRAF2. The knockdown of TNIP2 and TRAF2 increased NF-κB activity in healthy lung pericytes, which correlated with a significant increase in proliferation over 24 h. Conclusions: We have identified two rare novel variants in TNIP2 and TRAF2 using WES. We speculate that loss of function in these genes promotes pulmonary vascular remodeling by allowing overactivation of the NF-κB signaling activity. Our findings support a role for WES in helping identify novel genetic variants associated with dysfunctional immune response in PAH.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fmed.2021.625763

    View details for Web of Science ID 000649921700001

    View details for PubMedID 33996849

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8119639

  • THE CANCER HYPOTHESIS OF PULMONARY ARTERIAL HYPERTENSION: THE NEXT TEN YEARS. American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology Condon, D., Agarwal, S., Chakraborty, A., de Jesus Perez, V. A. 2020

    View details for DOI 10.1152/ajplung.00057.2020

    View details for PubMedID 32186209

  • Mural Cell SDF1 Signaling is Associated with the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. American journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology Yuan, K. n., Liu, Y. n., Zhang, Y. n., Nathan, A. n., Tian, W. n., Yu, J. n., Sweatt, A. J., Condon, D. n., Chakraborty, A. n., Agarwal, S. n., Auer, N. n., Zhang, S. n., Wu, J. C., Zamanian, R. T., Nicolls, M. R., de Jesus Perez, V. A. 2020


    Pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) and pericytes are NG2+ mural cells that provide structural support to pulmonary arteries and capillaries. In pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), both mural cell types contribute to PA muscularization but whether similar mechanisms are responsible for their behavior is unknown.RNA-Seq was used to compare the gene profile of pericytes and PASMCs from PAH and healthy lungs. NG2-Cre-ER mice were used to generate NG2-selective reporter mice (NG2tdT) for cell lineage identification and tamoxifen-inducible mice for NG2-selective SDF1 knockout (SDF1NG2-KO).Hierarchical clustering of RNA-seq data demonstrated that the genetic profile of PAH pericytes and PASMCs is highly similar. Cellular lineage staining studies on NG2tdT mice in chronic hypoxia showed that similar to PAH, tdT+ cells accumulate in muscularized microvessels and demonstrate significant upregulation of SDF1, a chemokine involved in chemotaxis and angiogenesis. Compared to controls, SDF1NG2-KO mice in chronic hypoxia had reduced muscularization and lower abundance of NG2+ cells around microvessels. SDF1 stimulation in healthy pericytes induced greater contractility and impaired their capacity to establish endothelial-pericyte communications. In contrast, SDF1 knockdown reduced PAH pericyte contractility and improved their capacity to associate with vascular tubes in co-culture.SDF1 is upregulated in NG2+ mural cells and is associated with PA muscularization. Targeting SDF1 could help prevent and/or reverse muscularization in PAH.

    View details for DOI 10.1165/rcmb.2019-0401OC

    View details for PubMedID 32084325

  • In Defense of the Nucleus: NUDT1 and Oxidative DNA Damage in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine Agarwal, S. n., de Jesus Perez, V. A. 2020

    View details for DOI 10.1164/rccm.202009-3706ED

    View details for PubMedID 33095993