Cyclin D-CDK4 Disulfide Bond Attenuates Pulmonary Vascular Cell Proliferation

Hannah Knight, Giancarlo Abis, Manpreet Kaur, Hannah Green, Susanne Krasemann, Kristin Hartmann, Steven Lynham, James Clark, Lan Zhao, Clemens Ruppert, Astrid Weiss, Ralph Schermuly, Philip Eaton, Olena Rudyk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a chronic vascular disease characterized, among other abnormalities, by hyperproliferative smooth muscle cells and a perturbed cellular redox and metabolic balance. Oxidants induce cell cycle arrest to halt proliferation; however, little is known about the redox-regulated effector proteins that mediate these processes. Here, we report a novel kinase-inhibitory disulfide bond in cyclin D-CDK4 (cyclin-dependent kinase 4) and investigate its role in cell proliferation and PH.

Oxidative modifications of cyclin D-CDK4 were detected in human pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells and human pulmonary arterial endothelial cells. Site-directed mutagenesis, tandem mass-spectrometry, cell-based experiments, in vitro kinase activity assays, in silico structural modeling, and a novel redox-dead constitutive knock-in mouse were utilized to investigate the nature and definitively establish the importance of CDK4 cysteine modification in pulmonary vascular cell proliferation. Furthermore, the cyclin D-CDK4 oxidation was assessed in vivo in the pulmonary arteries and isolated human pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells of patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension and in 3 preclinical models of PH.

Cyclin D-CDK4 forms a reversible oxidant-induced heterodimeric disulfide dimer between C7/8 and C135, respectively, in cells in vitro and in pulmonary arteries in vivo to inhibit cyclin D-CDK4 kinase activity, decrease Rb (retinoblastoma) protein phosphorylation, and induce cell cycle arrest. Mutation of CDK4 C135 causes a kinase-impaired phenotype, which decreases cell proliferation rate and alleviates disease phenotype in an experimental mouse PH model, suggesting this cysteine is indispensable for cyclin D-CDK4 kinase activity. Pulmonary arteries and human pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells from patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension display a decreased level of CDK4 disulfide, consistent with CDK4 being hyperactive in human pulmonary arterial hypertension. Furthermore, auranofin treatment, which induces the cyclin D-CDK4 disulfide, attenuates disease severity in experimental PH models by mitigating pulmonary vascular remodeling.

A novel disulfide bond in cyclin D-CDK4 acts as a rapid switch to inhibit kinase activity and halt cell proliferation. This oxidative modification forms at a critical cysteine residue, which is unique to CDK4, offering the potential for the design of a selective covalent inhibitor predicted to be beneficial in PH.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCirculation Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Nov 2023


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