Early Atheroma-Derived Agonists of Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor-γ Trigger Intramedial Angiogenesis in a Smooth Muscle Cell–Dependent Manner
Rationale: Neovascularization favors intraplaque hemorrhage and plaque rupture. Development of therapeutic strategies against atheromatous angiogenesis requires elucidation of its initiating factors.
Objective: We investigated the contribution of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and atheroma-derived lipids to the initiation of atheroma-associated neoangiogenesis.
Methods and Results: Forty human aortic segments, each harvested from a different donor, were classified as healthy or as bearing early atheromatous lesions, including fatty streaks and fibrolipidic atheroma, according to their histological features. Immunostaining for blood vessels and vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), as well as measurement of VEGF-A protein and mRNA levels by ELISA and real-time PCR, revealed that angiogenesis and VEGF-A production were enhanced in the medial layer of atheromatous aortas. The intramedial vessel density and invasiveness and the production of VEGF-A by medial SMCs were indeed increased in atheromatous aortas compared with healthy aortas. Furthermore, intimal layers of atheromatous aortas were enriched in soluble lipid mediators capable of inducing a sustained increase in VEGF-A production by medial SMCs, turning these cells into potent inducers of angiogenesis when incorporated into mouse Matrigel implants. Both effects were inhibited by the peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-γ inhibitor GW9662 and mimicked by its agonist, rosiglitazone.
Conclusions: We show that VEGF-A production is upregulated in medial SMCs of human atheromatous aortas and that peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-γ agonists derived from early intimal lesions are likely to contribute to this phenotypic change. Our findings suggest that medial SMCs are central organizers of an angiogenic response initiated by the subendothelial accumulation of atherogenic lipids.
- smooth muscle cells
- vascular endothelial growth factor
- peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor
- Received October 26, 2010.
- Revision received August 22, 2011.
- Accepted August 25, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.