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Ryan von Kleeck, Paola Castagnino, and Richard K Assoian

Hutchinson–Guilford Progeria syndrome (HGPS) is a rare genetic disease of premature aging and early death due to cardiovascular disease. The arteries of HGPS children and mice are pathologically stiff, and HGPS mice also display reduced arterial contractility. We recently showed that reduced contractility is an early event in HGPS and linked to an aberrantly low expression of smooth muscle myosin heavy chain (smMHC). Here, we have explored the basis for reduced smMHC abundance and asked whether it is a direct effect of progerin expression or a longer-term adaptive response. Myh11, the gene encoding for smMHC, is regulated by myocardin-related transcription factors (MRTFs), and we show that HGPS aortas have a reduced MRTF signature. Additionally, smooth muscle cells (SMCs) isolated from HGPS mice display reduced MRTF nuclear localization. Acute progerin expression in WT SMCs phenocopied both the decrease in MRTF nuclear localization and expression of Myh11 seen in HGPS. Interestingly, RNA-mediated depletion of MRTF-A in WT SMCs reproduced the preferential inhibitory effect of progerin on Myh11 mRNA relative to Acta2 mRNA. Our results show that progerin expression acutely disrupts MRTF localization to the nucleus and suggest that the consequent decrease in nuclear coactivator activity can help to explain the reduction in smMHC abundance and SMC contractility seen in HGPS.