Nonsyndromic patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a common congenital heart defect (CHD) with both inherited and acquired causes, but the disease mechanisms have remained elusive. Using combined genome-wide linkage analysis and whole-exome sequencing (WES), we identified independent mutations in PRDM6, which encodes a nuclear protein that is specific to vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), has histone methyl transferase activities, and acts as a transcriptional suppressor of contractile proteins. In vitro assays showed that the mutations cause loss of function either by intracellular redistribution of the protein and/or by alteration of its methyltransferase activities. Wild-type embryonic ductus arteriosus (DA) exhibited high levels of PRDM6, which rapidly declined postnatally as the number of VSMCs necessary for ductus contraction increased. This dynamic change suggests that PRDM6 plays a key role in maintaining VSMCs in an undifferentiated stage in order to promote their proliferation and that its loss of activity results in premature differentiation and impaired remodeling of the DA. Our findings identify PRDM6 mutations as underlying genetic causes of nonsyndromic isolated PDA in humans and implicates the wild-type protein in epigenetic regulation of ductus remodeling.
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