Fenfluramine-Induced gene dysregulation in human pulmonary artery smooth muscle and endothelial cells

Weijuan Yao, Wenbo Mu, Amy Zeifman, Michelle Lofti, Carmelle V. Remillard, Ayako Makino, David L. Perkins, Joe G.N. Garcia, Jason X.J. Yuan, Wei Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Fenfluramine is prescribed either alone or in combination with phentermine as part of Fen-Phen, an anti-obesity medication. Fenfluramine was withdrawn from the US market in 1997 due to reports of heart valvular disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and cardiac fibrosis. Particularly, idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH), previously referred to as primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH), was found to be associated with the use of Fen-Phen, fenfluramine, and fenfluramine derivatives. The underlying mechanism of fenfluramine-associated pulmonary hypertension is still largely unknown. We reasoned that investigating drug-induced gene dysregulation would enhance our understanding of the fenfluramine-associated pathogenic mechanism of IPAH. Whole-genome gene expression profiles in fenfluramine-treated human pulmonary artery smooth muscle (PASMC) and endothelial (PAEC) cells (isolated from normal subjects) were compared with baseline expression in untreated cells. Fenfluramine treatment caused dysregulation in a substantial number of genes involved in a variety of pathways and biological processes. In addition to several common pathways and biological processes such as “MAPK signaling pathway,” “inflammation response,” and “calcium signaling pathway” shared between both cell types, pathways and biological processes such as “blood circulation,” “muscle system process,” and “immune response” were enriched among the dysregulated genes in PASMC. Pathways and biological processes such as those related to cell cycle, however, were enriched among the dysregulated genes in PAEC, indicating that fenfluramine could affect unique pathways (or differentially) in different types of pulmonary artery cells. While awaiting validation in a larger cohort, these results strongly suggested that fenfluramine could induce significant dysregulation of genes in multiple biological processes and pathways critical for normal pulmonary vascular functions and structure. The transcriptional and posttranscriptional changes in these genes may, therefore, contribute to the pathogenesis of fenfluramine-associated IPAH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-418
Number of pages14
JournalPulmonary Circulation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anorexigen
  • Gene expression profile
  • Lysosome
  • Mitochondria
  • Pulmonary hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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