In hypertensive patients with indication of renal arteriography to investigate renal artery stenosis (RAS) there are no recommendations regarding when to investigate coronary artery disease (CAD). Moreover, the predictors of CAD in patients with RAS are not clear. We aimed to evaluate the frequency and the determinants of CAD in hypertensive patients referred to renal angiography. Eighty-two consecutive patients with high clinical risk suggesting the presence of RAS systematically underwent renal angiography and coronary angiography during the same procedure. Significant arterial stenosis was defined by an obstruction≥70% to both renal and coronary territories. Significant CAD was present in 32/82 (39%) and significant RAS in 32/82 (39%) patients. Both CAD and RAS were present in 25.6% from the 82 patients. Patients with severe CAD were older (63±12 vs. 56±13 years; p = 0.03) and had more angina (41 vs. 16%; p = 0.013) compared to patients without severe CAD. Significant RAS was associated with an increased frequency of severe CAD compared to patients without significant RAS (66% vs. 22%, respectively; p<0.001). Myocardial scintigraphy showed ischemia in 21.8% of the patients with CAD. Binary logistic regression analysis showed that RAS≥70% was independently associated with CAD≥70% (OR: 11.48; 95% CI 3.2–40.2; p<0.001), even in patients without angina (OR: 13.48; 95%CI 2.6–12.1; p<0.001). Even considering a small number of patients with significant RAS, we conclude that in hypertensive patients referred to renal angiography, RAS≥70% may be a strong predictor of severe CAD, independently of angina, and dual investigation should be considered.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a common disease among elderly individuals. However, the precise pathophysiology of AAA remains unknown. In AAA, an intraluminal thrombus prevents luminal perfusion of oxygen, allowing only the adventitial vaso vasorum (VV) to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the aortic wall. In this study, we examined changes in the adventitial VV wall in AAA to clarify the histopathological mechanisms underlying AAA. We found marked intimal hyperplasia of the adventitial VV in the AAA sac; further, immunohistological studies revealed proliferation of smooth muscle cells, which caused luminal stenosis of the VV. We also found decreased HemeB signals in the aortic wall of the sac as compared with those in the aortic wall of the neck region in AAA. The stenosis of adventitial VV in the AAA sac and the malperfusion of the aortic wall observed in the present study are new aspects of AAA pathology that are expected to enhance our understanding of this disease.
Krüppel-like factor 2 (KLF2) is expressed in endothelial cells in the developing heart, particularly in areas of high shear stress, such as the atrioventricular (AV) canal. KLF2 ablation leads to myocardial thinning, high output cardiac failure and death by mouse embryonic day 14.5 (E14.5) in a mixed genetic background. This work identifies an earlier and more fundamental role for KLF2 in mouse cardiac development in FVB/N mice. FVB/N KLF2−/− embryos die earlier, by E11.5. E9.5 FVB/N KLF2−/− hearts have multiple, disorganized cell layers lining the AV cushions, the primordia of the AV valves, rather than the normal single layer. By E10.5, traditional and endothelial-specific FVB/N KLF2−/− AV cushions are hypocellular, suggesting that the cells accumulating at the AV canal have a defect in endothelial to mesenchymal transformation (EMT). E10.5 FVB/N KLF2−/− hearts have reduced glycosaminoglycans in the cardiac jelly, correlating with the reduced EMT. However, the number of mesenchymal cells migrating from FVB/N KLF2−/− AV explants into a collagen matrix is reduced considerably compared to wild-type, suggesting that the EMT defect is not due solely to abnormal cardiac jelly. Echocardiography of E10.5 FVB/N KLF2−/− embryos indicates that they have abnormal heart function compared to wild-type. E10.5 C57BL/6 KLF2−/− hearts have largely normal AV cushions. However, E10.5 FVB/N and C57BL/6 KLF2−/− embryos have a delay in the formation of the atrial septum that is not observed in a defined mixed background. KLF2 ablation results in reduced Sox9, UDP-glucose dehydrogenase (Ugdh), Gata4 and Tbx5 mRNA in FVB/N AV canals. KLF2 binds to the Gata4, Tbx5 and Ugdh promoters in chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, indicating that KLF2 could directly regulate these genes. In conclusion, KLF2−/− heart phenotypes are genetic background-dependent. KLF2 plays a role in EMT through its regulation of important cardiovascular genes.
Vesiclepedia is a community-annotated compendium of molecular data on extracellular vesicles.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are membraneous vesicles released by a variety of cells into their microenvironment. Recent studies have elucidated the role of EVs in intercellular communication, pathogenesis, drug, vaccine and gene-vector delivery, and as possible reservoirs of biomarkers. These findings have generated immense interest, along with an exponential increase in molecular data pertaining to EVs. Here, we describe Vesiclepedia, a manually curated compendium of molecular data (lipid, RNA, and protein) identified in different classes of EVs from more than 300 independent studies published over the past several years. Even though databases are indispensable resources for the scientific community, recent studies have shown that more than 50% of the databases are not regularly updated. In addition, more than 20% of the database links are inactive. To prevent such database and link decay, we have initiated a continuous community annotation project with the active involvement of EV researchers. The EV research community can set a gold standard in data sharing with Vesiclepedia, which could evolve as a primary resource for the field.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is an important risk factor for coronary artery disease. However, its localization in human coronary plaques is not well understood. The present study was performed to visualize LDL in human coronary artery wall.
(1) The fluorescence characteristic of LDL was investigated by color fluorescent microscopy (CFM) with excitation at 470-nm and emission at 515-nm using Nile blue dye (NB) as a biomarker. (2) Native LDL in 40 normal segments, 42 white plaques and 35 yellow plaques (20 with necrotic core) of human coronary arteries was investigated by color fluorescent angioscopy (CFA) and CFM.
(1) NB elicited a brown, golden and red fluorescence characteristic of LDL, apolipoprotein B-100, and lysophosphatidylcholine/triglyceride, respectively. (2) The % incidence of LDL in normal segments, white, and yellow plaques was 25, 38 and 14 by CFA and 42, 42 and 14 by CFM scan of their luminal surface, respectively, indicating lower incidence (p<0.05) of LDL in yellow plaques than white plaques, and no significant differences in detection sensitivity between CFA and CFM. By CFM transected surface scan, LDL deposited more frequently and more diffusely in white plaques and yellow plaques without necrotic core (NC) than normal segments and yellow plaques with NC. LDL was localized to fibrous cap in yellow plaques with NC. Co-deposition of LDL with other lipid components was observed frequently in white plaques and yellow plaques without NC.
(1) Taken into consideration of the well-known process of coronary plaque growth, the results of the present study suggest that LDL begins to deposit before plaque formation; increasingly deposits with plaque growth, often co-depositing with other lipid components; and disappears after necrotic core formation. (2) CFA is feasible for visualization of LDL in human coronary artery wall.
Evidence has linked collagen loss with the onset of acute coronary events.
This study tested the hypothesis that selective MMP-13 collagenase inhibition increases collagen content in already established and nascent mouse atheromata.
Methods and Results
In vitro and in situ experiments documented the selectivity and efficacy of an orally available MMP-13 inhibitor (MMP13i-A). In vivo observations monitored macrophage accumulation and MMP-13 activity using molecular imaging. After 10 weeks of MMP13i-A treatment, apoE-/- mice with evolving or established lesions exhibited reduced MMP-13 activity without affecting macrophage content, measured either by intravital microscopy or fluorescence reflectance imaging. Histological analysis indicated that MMP13-iA did not affect plaque size, or macrophage or smooth-muscle cell accumulation. Administration of MMP13i-A to mice with evolving or established atheromata substantially increased plaque interstitial collagen content in the intima and locally in the fibrous cap, compared to vehicle-treated controls. Analysis of collagen revealed thicker collagen fibers within the plaques of treated groups.
Pharmacological MMP-13 inhibition yields collagen accumulation in plaques (a feature associated in humans with resistance to rupture), even in established plaques. This study of considerable clinical relevance furnishes new mechanistic insight into regulation of the plaque's extracellular matrix, and validates molecular imaging for studying plaque biology.
atherosclerosis; MMP-13; inhibitor; collagen; molecular imaging
The bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is the most common congenital cardiac anomaly and is frequently associated with calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD). The most prevalent type-I morphology, which results from left-/right-coronary cusp fusion, generates different hemodynamics than a tricuspid aortic valve (TAV). While valvular calcification has been linked to genetic and atherogenic predispositions, hemodynamic abnormalities are increasingly pointed as potential pathogenic contributors. In particular, the wall shear stress (WSS) produced by blood flow on the leaflets regulates homeostasis in the TAV. In contrast, WSS alterations cause valve dysfunction and disease. While such observations support the existence of synergies between valvular hemodynamics and biology, the role played by BAV WSS in valvular calcification remains unknown. The objective of this study was to isolate the acute effects of native BAV WSS abnormalities on CAVD pathogenesis. Porcine aortic valve leaflets were subjected ex vivo to the native WSS experienced by TAV and type-I BAV leaflets for 48 hours. Immunostaining, immunoblotting and zymography were performed to characterize endothelial activation, pro-inflammatory paracrine signaling, extracellular matrix remodeling and markers involved in valvular interstitial cell activation and osteogenesis. While TAV and non-coronary BAV leaflet WSS essentially maintained valvular homeostasis, fused BAV leaflet WSS promoted fibrosa endothelial activation, paracrine signaling (2.4-fold and 3.7-fold increase in BMP-4 and TGF-β1, respectively, relative to fresh controls), catabolic enzyme secretion (6.3-fold, 16.8-fold, 11.7-fold, 16.7-fold and 5.5-fold increase in MMP-2, MMP-9, cathepsin L, cathepsin S and TIMP-2, respectively) and activity (1.7-fold and 2.4-fold increase in MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity, respectively), and bone matrix synthesis (5-fold increase in osteocalcin). In contrast, BAV WSS did not significantly affect α-SMA and Runx2 expressions and TIMP/MMP ratio. This study demonstrates the key role played by BAV hemodynamic abnormalities in CAVD pathogenesis and suggests the dependence of BAV vulnerability to calcification on the local degree of WSS abnormality.
Valve interstitial cells populate aortic valve cusps and have been implicated in aortic valve calcification. Here we investigate a common in vitro model for aortic valve calcification by characterizing nodule formation in porcine aortic valve interstitial cells (PAVICs) cultured in osteogenic (OST) medium supplemented with transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1). Using a combination of materials science and biological techniques, we investigate the relevance of PAVICs nodules in modeling the mineralised material produced in calcified aortic valve disease. PAVICs were grown in OST medium supplemented with TGF-β1 (OST+TGF-β1) or basal (CTL) medium for up to 21 days. Murine calvarial osteoblasts (MOBs) were grown in OST medium for 28 days as a known mineralizing model for comparison. PAVICs grown in OST+TGF-β1 produced nodular structures staining positive for calcium content; however, micro-Raman spectroscopy allowed live, noninvasive imaging that showed an absence of mineralized material, which was readily identified in nodules formed by MOBs and has been identified in human valves. Gene expression analysis, immunostaining, and transmission electron microscopy imaging revealed that PAVICs grown in OST+TGF-β1 medium produced abundant extracellular matrix via the upregulation of the gene for Type I Collagen. PAVICs, nevertheless, did not appear to further transdifferentiate to osteoblasts. Our results demonstrate that ‘calcified’ nodules formed from PAVICs grown in OST+TGF-β1 medium do not mineralize after 21 days in culture, but rather they express a myofibroblast-like phenotype and produce a collagen-rich extracellular matrix. This study clarifies further the role of PAVICs as a model of calcification of the human aortic valve.
Vitamin K-antagonists (VKA) are treatment of choice and standard care for patients with venous thrombosis and thromboembolic risk. In experimental animal models as well as humans, VKA have been shown to promote medial elastocalcinosis. As vascular calcification is considered an independent risk factor for plaque instability, we here investigated the effect of VKA on coronary calcification in patients and on calcification of atherosclerotic plaques in the ApoE−/− model of atherosclerosis.
A total of 266 patients (133 VKA users and 133 gender and Framingham Risk Score matched non-VKA users) underwent 64-slice MDCT to assess the degree of coronary artery disease (CAD). VKA-users developed significantly more calcified coronary plaques as compared to non-VKA users. ApoE−/− mice (10 weeks) received a Western type diet (WTD) for 12 weeks, after which mice were fed a WTD supplemented with vitamin K1 (VK1, 1.5 mg/g) or vitamin K1 and warfarin (VK1&W; 1.5 mg/g & 3.0 mg/g) for 1 or 4 weeks, after which mice were sacrificed. Warfarin significantly increased frequency and extent of vascular calcification. Also, plaque calcification comprised microcalcification of the intimal layer. Furthermore, warfarin treatment decreased plaque expression of calcification regulatory protein carboxylated matrix Gla-protein, increased apoptosis and, surprisingly outward plaque remodeling, without affecting overall plaque burden.
VKA use is associated with coronary artery plaque calcification in patients with suspected CAD and causes changes in plaque morphology with features of plaque vulnerability in ApoE−/− mice. Our findings underscore the need for alternative anticoagulants that do not interfere with the vitamin K cycle.
Activation of vascular endothelial cells (ECs) contributes importantly to inflammation and atherogenesis. We previously reported that apolipoprotein CIII (apoCIII), found abundantly on circulating triglyceride-rich lipoproteins, enhances adhesion of human monocytes to ECs in vitro. Statins may exert lipid-independent anti-inflammatory effects. The present study examined whether statins suppress apoCIII-induced EC activation in vitro and in vivo.
Methods and results
Physiologically relevant concentrations of purified human apoCIII enhanced attachment of the monocyte-like cell line THP-1 to human saphenous vein ECs (HSVECs) or human coronary artery ECs (HCAECs) under both static and laminar shear stress conditions. This process mainly depends on vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), as a blocking VCAM-1 antibody abolished apoCIII-induced monocyte adhesion. ApoCIII significantly increased VCAM-1 expression in HSVECs and HCAECs. Pre-treatment with statins suppressed apoCIII-induced VCAM-1 expression and monocyte adhesion, with two lipophilic statins (pitavastatin and atorvastatin) exhibiting inhibitory effects at lower concentration than those of hydrophilic pravastatin. Nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) mediated apoCIII-induced VCAM-1 expression, as demonstrated via loss-of-function experiments, and pitavastatin treatment suppressed NF-κB activation. Furthermore, in the aorta of hypercholesterolaemic Ldlr−/− mice, pitavastatin administration in vivo suppressed VCAM-1 mRNA and protein, induced by apoCIII bolus injection. Similarly, in a subcutaneous dorsal air pouch mouse model of leucocyte recruitment, apoCIII injection induced F4/80+ monocyte and macrophage accumulation, whereas pitavastatin administration reduced this effect.
These findings further establish the direct role of apoCIII in atherogenesis and suggest that anti-inflammatory effects of statins could improve vascular disease in the population with elevated plasma apoCIII.
Apolipoprotein CIII; Vascular endothelial cells; Monocytes; HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors; Atherosclerosis
Statin- and exercise-therapy are both clinically beneficial by preventing cardiovascular events in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). However, there is no information on the vascular effects of the combination of statins and exercise on arterial wall stiffness in CAD patients.
The present study is a sub-analysis of PRESET study that determined the effects of 20-week treatment with statins (rosuvastatin, n = 14, atorvastatin, n = 14) combined with regular exercise on arterial wall stiffness assessed by measurement of brachial and ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV) in CAD patients.
The combination of statins and regular exercise significantly improved exercise capacity, lipid profile, including low- and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), baPWV (baseline: 1747±355, at 20 weeks of treatment: 1627±271 cm/s, p = 0.008), and basophil count (baseline: 42±32, 20 weeks: 26±15 cells/µL, p = 0.007), but had no effect on blood pressure (baseline: 125±22, 20 weeks: 121±16 mmHg). Changes in baPWV correlated significantly with changes in basophil count (r = 0.488, p = 0.008), but not with age, lipids profile, exercise capacity, or hs-CRP.
In CAD patients, the combination treatment with statins and exercise resulted in significant amelioration of arterial wall stiffness, at least in part, through reduction of circulating basophils.
Detecting and quantifying the severity of mitral regurgitation is essential for risk stratification and clinical decision-making regarding timing of surgery. Our objective was to assess specific visual parameters by cine-magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the determination of the severity of mitral regurgitation and to compare it to previously validated imaging modalities: echocardiography and cardiac ventriculography.
The study population consisted of 68 patients who underwent a cardiac MRI followed by an echocardiogram within a median time of 2.0 days and 49 of these patients who had a cardiac catheterization, median time of 2.0 days. The inter-rater agreement statistic (Kappa) was used to evaluate the agreement.
There was moderate agreement between cine MRI and Doppler echocardiography in assessing mitral regurgitation severity, with a kappa value of 0.47, confidence interval (CI) 0.29–0.65. There was also fair agreement between cine MRI and cardiac catheterization with a kappa value of 0.36, CI of 0.17–0.55.
Cine MRI offers a reasonable alternative to both Doppler echocardiography and, to a lesser extent, cardiac catheterization for visually assessing the severity of mitral regurgitation with specific visual parameters during routine clinical cardiac MRI.
Fibroblasts residing in connective tissues throughout the body are responsible for extracellular matrix (ECM) homeostasis and repair. In response to tissue damage, they activate to become myofibroblasts, which have organized contractile cytoskeletons and produce a myriad of proteins for ECM remodeling. However, persistence of myofibroblasts can lead to fibrosis with excessive collagen deposition and tissue stiffening. Thus, understanding which signals regulate de-activation of myofibroblasts during normal tissue repair is critical. Substrate modulus has recently been shown to regulate fibrogenic properties, proliferation and apoptosis of fibroblasts isolated from different organs. However, few studies track the cellular responses of fibroblasts to dynamic changes in the microenvironmental modulus. Here, we utilized a light-responsive hydrogel system to probe the fate of valvular myofibroblasts when the Young’s modulus of the substrate was reduced from ∼32 kPa, mimicking pre-calcified diseased tissue, to ∼7 kPa, mimicking healthy cardiac valve fibrosa. After softening the substrata, valvular myofibroblasts de-activated with decreases in α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) stress fibers and proliferation, indicating a dormant fibroblast state. Gene signatures of myofibroblasts (including α-SMA and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF)) were significantly down-regulated to fibroblast levels within 6 hours of in situ substrate elasticity reduction while a general fibroblast gene vimentin was not changed. Additionally, the de-activated fibroblasts were in a reversible state and could be re-activated to enter cell cycle by growth stimulation and to express fibrogenic genes, such as CTGF, collagen 1A1 and fibronectin 1, in response to TGF-β1. Our data suggest that lowering substrate modulus can serve as a cue to down-regulate the valvular myofibroblast phenotype resulting in a predominantly quiescent fibroblast population. These results provide insight in designing hydrogel substrates with physiologically relevant stiffness to dynamically redirect cell fate in vitro.
While many large-scale risk factors for calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD) have been identified, the molecular etiology and subsequent pathogenesis of CAVD have yet to be fully understood. Specifically, it is unclear what biological phenomena underlie the significantly higher occurrence of CAVD in the male population. We hypothesized the existence of intrinsic, cellular-scale differences between male and female valvular interstitial cells (VICs) that contribute to male sex being a risk factor for CAVD. Differences in gene expression profiles between healthy male and female porcine VICs were investigated via microarray analysis. Mean expression values of each probe set in the male samples were compared to the female samples, and biological processes were analyzed for overrepresentation using Gene Ontology term enrichment analysis. There were 183 genes identified as significantly (fold change>2; P<0.05) different in male versus female aortic valve leaflets. Within this significant gene list there were 298 overrepresented biological processes, several of which are relevant to pathways identified in CAVD pathogenesis. In particular, pathway analysis indicated that cellular proliferation, apoptosis, migration, ossification, angiogenesis, inflammation, and extracellular matrix reorganization were all significantly represented in the data set. These gene expression findings also translated into functional differences in VIC behavior in the in vitro environment, as sex-related differences in proliferation and apoptosis were confirmed in VIC populations cultured in vitro. These data suggest that a sex-related propensity for CAVD exists on the cellular level in healthy subjects, a phenomenon that could have significant clinical implications. These findings also strongly support discontinuing the use of mixed-sex VIC cultures, thereby changing the current standard in the field.
Enhanced matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) activity is implicated in the process of atherosclerotic plaque instability. We hypothesized that doxycycline, a broad MMPs inhibitor, was as effective as simvastatin in reducing the incidence of plaque disruption. Thirty rabbits underwent aortic balloon injury and were fed a high-fat diet for 20 weeks. At the end of week 8, the rabbits were divided into three groups for 12-week treatment: a doxycycline-treated group that received oral doxycycline at a dose of 10 mg/kg/d, a simvastatin-treated group that received oral simvastatin at a dose of 5 mg/kg/d, and a control group that received no treatment. At the end of week 20, pharmacological triggering was performed to induce plaque rupture. Biochemical, ultrasonographic, pathologic, immunohistochemical and mRNA expression studies were performed. The results showed that oral administration of doxycycline resulted in a significant increase in the thickness of the fibrous cap of the aortic plaque whereas there was a substantial reduction of MMPs expression, local and systemic inflammation, and aortic plaque vulnerability. The incidence of plaque rupture with either treatment (0% for both) was significantly lower than that for controls (56.0%, P<0.05). There was no significant difference between doxycycline-treated group and simvastatin-treated group in any serological, ultrasonographic, pathologic, immunohistochemical and mRNA expression measurement except for the serum lipid levels that were higher with doxycycline than with simvastatin treatment. In conclusion, doxycycline at a common antimicrobial dose stabilizes atherosclerotic lesions via inhibiting matrix metalloproteinases and attenuating inflammation in a rabbit model of vulnerable plaque. These effects were similar to a large dose of simvastatin and independent of serum lipid levels.
Growing human atherosclerotic plaques show a progressive loss of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) becoming soft and vulnerable. Lipid loaded-VSMC show impaired vascular repair function and motility due to changes in cytoskeleton proteins involved in cell-migration. Clinical benefits of statins reducing coronary events have been related to repopulation of vulnerable plaques with VSMC. Here, we investigated whether HMG-CoA reductase inhibition with rosuvastatin can reverse the effects induced by atherogenic concentrations of LDL either in the native (nLDL) form or modified by aggregation (agLDL) on human VSMC motility. Using a model of wound repair, we showed that treatment of human coronary VSMC with rosuvastatin significantly prevented (and reversed) the inhibitory effect of nLDL and agLDL in the repair of the cell depleted areas. In addition, rosuvastatin significantly abolished the agLDL-induced dephosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chain as demonstrated by 2DE-electrophoresis and mass spectrometry. Besides, confocal microscopy showed that rosuvastatin enhances actin-cytoskeleton reorganization during lipid-loaded-VSMC attachment and spreading. The effects of rosuvastatin on actin-cytoskeleton dynamics and cell migration were dependent on ROCK-signalling. Furthermore, rosuvastatin caused a significant increase in RhoA-GTP in the cytosol of VSMC. Taken together, our study demonstrated that inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase restores the migratory capacity and repair function of VSMC that is impaired by native and aggregated LDL. This mechanism may contribute to the stabilization of lipid-rich atherosclerotic plaques afforded by statins.
Coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is the major causal pathogen of acute endocarditis, a rapidly progressing, destructive infection of the heart valves. Bacterial colonization occurs at sites of endothelial damage, where (together with fibrin and platelets) it initiates the formation of abnormal growths known as vegetations. Here we report that an engineered analog of prothrombin detected S. aureus in endocarditic vegetations via noninvasive fluorescence or PET imaging. These prothrombin derivatives bound to staphylocoagulase and intercalated into growing bacterial vegetations. We also present evidence for bacterial quorum sensing in the regulation of staphylocoagulase expression by S. aureus. Staphylocoagulase expression was limited to the growing edge of mature vegetations, where it was exposed to the host and co-localized with the imaging probe. When endocarditis was induced with an S. aureus strain with genetic deletion of coagulases, survival of mice improved, highlighting the role of staphylocoagulase as a virulence factor.
endocarditis; staphylocoagulase; prothrombin; noninvasive imaging; von Willebrand factor binding protein
Cardiac valvular endothelium is unique in its ability to undergo endothelial-to-mesenchymal transformation, a differentiation process that is essential for valve development and has been proposed as mechanism for replenishing the interstitial cells of mature valves. We hypothesized that the valvular endothelium contains endothelial cells that are direct precursors to osteoblastic valvular interstitial cells (VICs).
Methods and Results
Clonal cell populations from ovine mitral valve leaflets were isolated by single cell plating. Mitral valvular endothelial and mesenchymal clones were tested for osteogenic, adipogenic, and chondrogenic differentiation, determined by the expression of lineage-specific markers. Mitral valvular endothelial clones showed a propensity for osteogenic, as well as chondrogenic differentiation that was comparable to a mitral valvular VIC clone and to bone marrow–derived mesenchymal stem cells. Osteogenic differentiation was not detected in nonvalvular endothelial cells. Regions of osteocalcin expression, a marker of osteoblastic differentiation, were detected along the endothelium of mitral valves that had been subjected in vivo to mechanical stretch.
Mitral valve leaflets contain endothelial cells with multilineage mesenchymal differentiation potential, including osteogenic differentiation. This unique feature suggests that postnatal mitral valvular endothelium harbors a reserve of progenitor cells that can contribute to osteogenic and chondrogenic VICs.
endothelium; heart valves; vascular biology; EMT; endothelial cells; mitral valve; osteogenic differentiation
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a permanent and localized aortic dilation, defined as aortic diameter ≥3 cm. It is an asymptomatic but potentially fatal condition because progressive enlargement of the abdominal aorta is spontaneously evolving towards rupture.
Biomarkers may help to explain pathological processes of AAA expansion, and allow us to find novel therapeutic strategies or to determine the efficiency of current therapies. Metabolomics seems to be a good approach to find biomarkers of AAA. In this study, plasma samples of patients with large AAA, small AAA, and controls were fingerprinted with LC-QTOF-MS. Statistical analysis was used to compare metabolic fingerprints and select metabolites that showed a significant change. Results presented here reveal that LC-QTOF-MS based fingerprinting of plasma from AAA patients is a very good technique to distinguish small AAA, large AAA, and controls. With the use of validated PLS-DA models it was possible to classify patients according to the disease stage and predict properly the stage of additional AAA patients. Identified metabolites indicate a role for sphingolipids, lysophospholipids, cholesterol metabolites, and acylcarnitines in the development and progression of AAA. Moreover, guanidinosuccinic acid, which mimics nitric oxide in terms of its vasodilatory action, was found as a strong marker of large AAA.
New high-resolution molecular and structural imaging strategies are needed to visualize high-risk plaques that are likely to cause acute myocardial infarction, because current diagnostic methods do not reliably identify at-risk subjects. While molecular imaging agents are available for lower-resolution detection of atherosclerosis in large arteries, a lack of imaging agents coupled to high-resolution modalities has limited molecular imaging of atherosclerosis in the smaller coronary arteries [AU: ok? YES]. Here, we have demonstrated that indocyanine green (ICG), an FDA-approved near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) emitting compound, targets atheromas within 20 minutes of injection and provides sufficient signal enhancement for in vivo detection of lipid-rich, inflamed, coronary-sized plaques in atherosclerotic rabbits. In vivo NIRF sensing was achieved with an intravascular wire in the aortae, a vessel of comparable caliber to human coronary arteries. Ex vivo fluorescence reflectance imaging studies showed high plaque target-to-background ratios in atheroma-bearing rabbits injected with ICG, compared to atheroma-bearing rabbits injected with saline. In vitro studies using human macrophages established that ICG preferentially targets lipid-loaded macrophages. In an early clinical study of human atheroma specimens from four patients, we found that ICG colocalized with plaque macrophages and lipids. The atheroma-targeting capability of ICG has the potential to accelerate the clinical development of NIRF molecular imaging of high-risk plaques in humans.
Anti-inflammatory actions of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-γ agonists such as pioglitazone (PIO) may underlie their reported but incompletely understood repression of atherosclerosis. This molecular imaging study investigated the effects of pioglitazone on plaque matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and macrophage responses in vivo.
Methods and Results
In vitro, pioglitazone suppressed MMP-9 mRNA expression in murine peritoneal macrophages (P<0.05). To assess pioglitazone's effects on plaque inflammation, nondiabetic apoE−/− mice on high-cholesterol diet (HCD) received a MMP-activatable fluorescence imaging agent and a spectrally-distinct macrophage-avid fluorescent nanoparticle. After 24 hours, mice underwent survival dual-target intravital fluorescence microscopy (IVFM) of carotid arterial plaques. These mice were then randomized to HCD or HCD+PIO 0.012% for 8 weeks, followed by a second IVFM study of the same carotid plaque. In the HCD group, in vivo MMP and macrophage target-to-background ratios (TBRs) increased similarly (P<0.01 vs. baseline). In contrast, pioglitazone reduced MMP and macrophage TBRs (P<0.01 vs. HCD). Changes in MMP and macrophage signals correlated strongly (r-values≥0.75). Microscopy demonstrated MMP and macrophage reductions in pioglitazone-treated mice, as well as a PIO-modulated increase in plaque collagen.
Serial optical molecular imaging demonstrates that plaque MMP and macrophage activity in vivo intensify with hypercholesterolemia and are reduced by pioglitazone therapy.
atherosclerosis; pioglitazone; inflammation; molecular imaging; fluorescence
Traditional imaging modalities such as computed tomography, although perfectly adept at identifying and quantifying advanced calcification, cannot detect the early stages of this disorder and offer limited insight into the mechanisms of mineral dysregulation. This review presents optical molecular imaging as a promising tool that simultaneously detects pathobiological processes associated with inflammation and early stages of calcification in vivo at the (sub)cellular levels.
Research into treatment of cardiovascular calcification is lacking, as shown by clinical trials that have failed to demonstrate the reduction of calcific aortic stenosis. Hence the need to elucidate the pathways that contribute to cardiovascular calcification and to develop new therapeutic strategies to prevent or reverse calcification has driven investigations into the use of molecular imaging. This review discusses studies that have used molecular imaging methods to advance knowledge of cardiovascular calcification, focusing in particular on the inflammation-dependent mechanisms of arterial and aortic valve calcification.
Aortic valve; atherosclerosis; inflammation; calcification; molecular imaging
Collagen degradation in atherosclerotic plaques with thin fibrous caps renders them more prone to rupture. Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) plays a role in arthritis and tumour formation through its collagenase activity. However, the significance of FAP in thin-cap human fibroatheromata remains unknown.
Methods and results
We detected enhanced FAP expression in type IV–V human aortic atheromata (n = 12), compared with type II–III lesions (n = 9; P < 0.01) and healthy aortae (n = 8; P < 0.01) by immunostaining and western blot analyses. Fibroblast activation protein was also increased in thin-cap (<65 µm) vs. thick-cap (≥65 µm) human coronary fibroatheromata (n = 12; P < 0.01). Fibroblast activation protein was expressed by human aortic smooth muscle cells (HASMC) as shown by colocalization on immunofluorescent aortic plaque stainings (n = 10; P < 0.01) and by flow cytometry in cell culture. Although macrophages did not express FAP, macrophage burden in human aortic plaques correlated with FAP expression (n = 12; R2= 0.763; P < 0.05). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays showed a time- and dose-dependent up-regulation of FAP in response to human tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) in HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01). Moreover, supernatants from peripheral blood-derived macrophages induced FAP expression in cultured HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01), an effect abolished by blocking TNFα (n = 6; P < 0.01). Fibroblast activation protein associated with collagen-poor regions in human coronary fibrous caps and digested type I collagen and gelatin in vitro (n = 6; P < 0.01). Zymography revealed that FAP-mediated collagenase activity was neutralized by an antibody directed against the FAP catalytic domain both in HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01) and in fibrous caps of atherosclerotic plaques (n = 10; P < 0.01).
Fibroblast activation protein expression in HASMC is induced by macrophage-derived TNFα. Fibroblast activation protein associates with thin-cap human coronary fibroatheromata and contributes to type I collagen breakdown in fibrous caps.
Atherosclerosis; Antibodies; Collagen; Inflammation; Smooth muscle cells