RhoA increases ASIC1a plasma membrane localization and calcium influx in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells following chronic hypoxia.
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Increases in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cell (PASMC) intracellular Ca2+ levels and enhanced RhoA/Rho kinase-dependent Ca2+ sensitization are key determinants of PASMC contraction, migration, and proliferation accompanying the development of hypoxic pulmonary hypertension. We previously showed that acid-sensing ion channel 1a (ASIC1a)-mediated Ca2+ entry in PASMC is an important constituent of the active vasoconstriction, vascular remodeling, and right ventricular hypertrophy associated with hypoxic pulmonary hypertension. However, the enhanced ASIC1a-mediated store-operated Ca2+ entry in PASMC from pulmonary hypertensive animals is not dependent on an increase in ASIC1a protein expression, suggesting that chronic hypoxia (CH) stimulates ASIC1a function through other regulatory mechanism(s). RhoA is involved in ion channel trafficking, and levels of activated RhoA are increased following CH. Therefore, we hypothesize that activation of RhoA following CH increases ASIC1a-mediated Ca2+ entry by promoting ASIC1a plasma membrane localization. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found greater plasma membrane localization of ASIC1a following CH. Inhibition of RhoA decreased ASIC1a plasma membrane expression and largely diminished ASIC1a-mediated Ca2+ influx, whereas activation of RhoA had the opposite effect. A proximity ligation assay revealed that ASIC1a and RhoA colocalize in PASMC and that the activation state of RhoA modulates this interaction. Together, our findings show a novel interaction between RhoA and ASIC1a, such that activation of RhoA in PASMC, both pharmacologically and via CH, promotes ASIC1a plasma membrane localization and Ca2+ entry. In addition to enhanced RhoA-mediated Ca2+ sensitization following CH, RhoA can also activate a Ca2+ signal by facilitating ASIC1a plasma membrane localization and Ca2+ influx in pulmonary hypertension.