Exposure of smooth muscle cells cultured on plastic or glass to hyperlipidemic serum did not result in the formation of foam cells. Since elastin binds serum lipids, and vascular smooth muscle cells are normally closely associated with elastin, we investigated the effects of an elastin substrate on lipid metabolism and on the accumulation of lipid vacuoles by rabbit aortic smooth muscle cells in culture. When cells were grown in plastic petri dishes, cholesteryl ester synthesis, as measured by [14C]oleate incorporation into cholesteryl esters, was 3 times greater in rabbit hyperlipidemic serum (HLS) than in normolipemic serum (NLS) (P < 0.001). For cells of the same subculture grown on the elastin substrate, the synthetic rate was 6-fold greater in HLS compared to NLS (P < 0.005). The cells grown on the elastin membranes in the presence of HLS contained large numbers of Oil red O stainable lipid vacuoles and resembled foam cells, while those grown in petri dishes and exposed to HLS showed only an occasional cell containing a few vacuoles. Pre-incubation in lipoprotein-deficient serum markedly enhanced the stimulatory effect of HLS on cholesteryl ester synthesis for cells growing in plastic petric dishes but had much less stimulatory effect on the cells growing on elastin membranes. These studies indicate that close association with elastin modulates the response of smooth muscle cells to hyperlipidemia and suggest a role for elastin in the formation of foam cells of smooth muscle origin during atherogenesis.
- Cholesteryl ester
- Foam cells
- Smooth muscle cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine