Tissue-Destructive Macrophages in Giant Cell Arteritis
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Abstract—Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an inflammatory vasculopathy in which T cells and macrophages infiltrate the wall of medium and large arteries. Clinical consequences such as blindness and stroke are related to arterial occlusion. Formation of aortic aneurysms may result from necrosis of smooth muscle cells and fragmentation of elastic membranes. The molecular mechanisms of arterial wall injury in GCA are not understood. To identify mechanisms of arterial damage, gene expression in inflamed and unaffected temporal artery specimens was compared by differential display polymerase chain reaction. Genes differentially expressed in arterial lesions included 3 products encoded by the mitochondrial genome. Immunohistochemistry with antibodies specific for a 65-kDa mitochondrial antigen revealed that increased expression of mitochondrial products was characteristic of multinucleated giant cells and of CD68+ macrophages that cluster in the media and at the media-intima junction. 4-Hydroxy-2-nonenal adducts, products of lipid peroxidation, were detected on smooth muscle cells and on tissue infiltrating cells, in close proximity to multinucleated giant cells and CD68+ macrophages. Also, giant cells and macrophages with overexpression of mitochondrial products were able to synthesize metalloproteinase-2. Our data suggest that in the vascular lesions characteristic for GCA, a subset of macrophages has the potential to support several pathways of arterial injury, including the release of reactive oxygen species and the production of metalloproteinase-2. This macrophage subset is topographically defined and is also identified by overexpression of mitochondrial genes. Because these macrophages have a high potential to promote several mechanisms of arterial wall damage, they should be therapeutically targeted to prevent blood vessel destruction.
- Received August 10, 1998.
- Accepted February 24, 1999.
- © 1999 American Heart Association, Inc.