Dissecting aortic aneurysm is the hallmark of Marfan syndrome (MFS) and the result of mutations in fibrillin-1, the major constituent of elastin-associated extracellular microfibrils. It is yet to be established whether dysfunction of fibrillin-1 perturbs the ability of the elastic vessel wall to sustain hemodynamic stress by disrupting microfibrillar assembly, by impairing the homeostasis of established elastic fibers, or by a combination of both mechanisms. The pathogenic sequence responsible for the mechanical collapse of the elastic lamellae in the aortic wall is also unknown. Targeted mutation of the mouse fibrillin-1 gene has recently suggested that deficiency of fibrillin-1 reduces tissue homeostasis rather than elastic fiber formation. Here we describe another gene-targeting mutation, mgR, which shows that underexpression of fibrillin-1 similarly leads to MFS-like manifestations. Histopathological analysis of mgR/mgR specimens implicates medial calcification, the inflammatory-fibroproliferative response, and inflammation-mediated elastolysis in the natural history of dissecting aneurysm. More generally, the phenotypic severity associated with various combinations of normal and mutant fibrillin-1 alleles suggests a threshold phenomenon for the functional collapse of the vessel wall that is based on the level and the integrity of microfibrils.