Phenotypic characterization of human smooth muscle cells derived from atherosclerotic tibial and peroneal arteries

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Vascular Surgery








Purpose: The vascular smooth muscle cell plays a pivotal role in the development of atherosclerosis. The objectives of this study were to characterize smooth muscle cells from the human atherosclerotic tibial artery to determine their phenotypic properties and to examine the contractile reactions of these cells to physiologic and pharmacologic stimuli. Methods: After below-knee amputations were performed, vascular smooth muscle cells were harvested and cultivated from tibioperoneal source. Characterization was done with transmission electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry. The contractile properties were determined by observing the response to various stimuli. In addition, segments of vessels harvested were submitted to electron microscopy studies for comparison with the cultured cells. Results: Immunofluorescent labeling was positive for α-smooth muscle actin. Electron microscopy revealed the presence of a thickened basal laminae and large intracellular lipid vacuoles. The earlier passages revealed cells with a large number of microfilaments characteristic of a contractile cell. As later passages were examined, there was a notable change in character with an increasing amount of rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complexes. The increased thickness of the basal lamina in the cultured cells resembled that found in vessel segments studied by electron microscopy. A rapid contraction response was seen when the cells were incubated with angiotensin II, bradykinin, or endothelin. No response was seen with the addition of isoproterenol, nitroglycerin, or nitroprusside, known smooth-muscle relaxants. Conclusion: This model demonstrates the apparent inability of these smooth muscle cells from atherosclerotic tibial arteries to relax to pharmacologic and physiologic stimuli. In addition, as seen by transmission electron microscopy, these cells maintain their atherosclerotic phenotype after multiple passages.

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