Heart valves exhibit a highly-conserved stratified structure exquisitely designed to counter biomechanical forces delivered over a lifetime. Heart valve structure and competence is maintained by heart valve cells through a process of continuous turnover extracellular matrix (ECM). Degenerative (myxomatous) mitral valve disease (DMVD) is an important disease associated with aging in both dogs and humans. DMVD is increasingly regarded as a disease with identifiable signaling mechanisms that control key genes associated with regulation and dysregulation of ECM homeostasis. Initiating stimuli for these signaling pathways have not been fully elucidated but likely include both mechanical and chemical stimuli. Signaling pathways implicated in DMVD include serotonin, transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), and heart valve developmental pathways. High circulating serotonin (carcinoid syndrome) and serotoninergic drugs are known to cause valvulopathy that shares pathologic features with DMVD. Recent evidence supports a local serotonin signaling mechanism, possibly triggered by high tensile loading on heart valves. Serotonin initiates TGFβ signaling, which in turn has been strongly implicated in canine DMVD. Recent evidence suggests that degenerative aortic and mitral valve disease may involve pathologic processes that mimic osteogenesis and chondrogenesis, respectively. These processes may be mediated by developmental pathways shared by heart valves, bone, and cartilage. These pathways include bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and Wnt signaling. Other signaling pathways implicated in heart valve disease include Notch, nitric oxide, and angiotensin II. Ultimately, increased understanding of signaling mechanisms could point to therapeutic strategies aimed at slowing or halting disease progression.
- Degenerative mitral valve disease
- Developmental signaling pathways
- Myxomatous pathology
- Transforming growth factor β