Supravalvular aortic stenosis is an autosomal-dominant disease of elastin (Eln) insufficiency caused by loss-of-function mutations or gene deletion. Recently, we have modeled this disease in mice (Eln+/-) and found that Eln haploinsufficiency results in unexpected changes in cardiovascular hemodynamics and arterial wall structure. Eln+/- animals were found to be stably hypertensive from birth, with a mean arterial pressure 25-30 mmHg higher than their wild-type counterparts. The animals have only moderate cardiac hypertrophy and live a normal life span with no overt signs of degenerative vascular disease. Examination of arterial mechanical properties showed that the inner diameters of Eln+/- arteries were generally smaller than wild-type arteries at any given intravascular pressure. Because the Eln+/- mouse is hypertensive, however, the effective arterial working diameter is comparable to that of the normotensive wild-type animal. Physiological studies indicate a role for the reninangiotensin system in maintaining the hypertensive state. The association of hypertension with elastin haploinsufficiency in humans and mice strongly suggests that elastin and other proteins of the elastic fiber should be considered as causal genes for essential hypertension.
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