Heterogeneity of endothelial cell phenotype within and amongst conduit vessels of the swine vasculature

Grant H Simmons, Jaume Padilla, M Harold Laughlin
Experimental Physiology 2012, 97 (9): 1074-82
The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent of endothelial cell phenotypic heterogeneity throughout the swine vasculature, with a focus on the conduit vessels of the arterial and venous circulations. We tested the hypothesis that atheroprone arteries exhibit higher expression of markers of inflammation and oxidative stress than do veins and atheroresistant arteries. The study sample included tissues from 79 castrated, male swine. Immediately after the animals were killed, endothelial cells were mechanically scraped from isolated segments of the thoracic and abdominal aorta, carotid, brachial, femoral and renal arteries, and the vein regionally associated with each of these vessels, as well as the internal mammary and right coronary arteries. Cells were also taken from two regions of the aortic arch contrasted by atheroprone versus atherosusceptible haemodynamics. Endothelial cell phenotype was assessed by either immunoblotting or quantitative real-time PCR for a host of both pro- and anti-atherogenic markers (e.g. endothelial nitric oxide synthase, p67phox, cyclo-oxygenase-1 and superoxide dismutase 1). Marked heterogeneity across the vasculature was observed in the expression of both pro- and anti-atherogenic markers, at both the protein and transcriptional levels. In particular, the coronary vascular endothelium expressed higher levels of the oxidative stress marker p67phox (P < 0.05 versus other arteries). In addition, differential expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and KLF4 was evident between atheroprone and atherosusceptible regions of the aorta, while expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, KLF2, KLF4 and cyclo-oxygenase-1 was lower in both areas of the aortic arch compared with the internal mammary artery. Conduit arteries typically expressed higher levels of both pro- and anti-atherogenic markers relative to their associated veins. We show, for the first time, that endothelial cell phenotype is variable within vessels, across six major vascular territories, and between the arterial and venous circulations. Importantly, even straight vessel segments from systemic conduit arteries (e.g. brachial and carotid arteries) exhibited regional phenotypic heterogeneity; a finding not expected on the basis of local haemodynamic forces alone.

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