The altered coronary vasoactivity detected in experimental hypercholesterolemia before lesion formation is presumably due to an imbalance between vasodilating and vasoconstricting factors. Apoptosis, which has been previously described in advanced atherosclerosis, is modulated by vascular derived peptides with vasoactive properties. We hypothesized that coronary apoptosis occurs in experimental hypercholesterolemia prior to lesion formation. Pigs were sacrificed after being on either a high- cholesterol diet for 10-16 weeks (n = 17) or a normal diet (n = 9). Identification of apoptosis in each layer of coronary arteries and arterioles was performed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP- biotin nick end-labeling (TUNEL). In additional animals, ligation-mediated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and transmission electron and confocal microscopy were done. Plasma cholesterol levels were higher in the cholesterol-fed animals (86 ± 9 mg/dl versus 342 ± 20 mg/dl, P < 0.001). Atheromatous plaques were not evident in the high-cholesterol group. TUNEL was positive in 11 of 17 hypercholesterolemic animals, primarily in the intima (1-2%, of cells) and adventitia (3% of cells), but not in control vessels. A similar distribution was detected in arterioles. DNA bands were detected only in experimental animals, as were morphological features of apoptosis by transmission electron and confocal microscopy. In experimental hypercholesterolemia, apoptosis occurred in coronary arteries and arterioles before lesion formation. Apoptosis may be an integral process of early coronary atherosclerosis.
- Coronary artery disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine