Effects of homocysteine on smooth muscle cell proliferation in both cell culture and artery perfusion culture models

J Surg Res. 2000 Jan;88(1):26-33. doi: 10.1006/jsre.1999.5756.


Background: Hyperhomocysteinemia is associated with increased risk for vascular disease. However, the pathogenic mechanisms of homocysteine are largely unknown. We evaluated the effects of homocysteine on smooth muscle cell (SMC) and endothelial cell proliferation in cell culture and on SMC proliferation of balloon angioplasty-injured arteries in a perfusion culture model.

Methods: Human and pig SMCs and endothelial cells were cultured with variable amounts of homocysteine for 72 h and the total cells were counted using a hemocytometer. Fresh pig carotid arteries were harvested from a local slaughterhouse and cultured in a newly designed artery perfusion culture system. Five groups of arteries (six per group) were cultured for 48 h under different conditions: normal control, balloon angioplasty injury alone, and injury with three different doses of homocysteine. Vessel viability was evaluated. SMC proliferation was assayed by bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) DNA labeling.

Results: At concentrations equivalent to those in human hyperhomocysteinemia, homocysteine significantly stimulated both cultured human and pig SMC proliferation with a dose-dependent effect, while it inhibited cultured endothelial cell growth. Perfusion-cultured pig carotid arteries remained contractile in response to norepinephrine and relaxant to nitroglycerine, and viable cells were also isolated from the cultured arteries. SMC proliferation (BrdU index) showed significant differences among the groups. SMC proliferation was stimulated by vascular injury and further enhanced by homocysteine in a dose-dependent manner. The proliferative response occurred strongly on the luminal side of the vessel wall, with the effects tapering toward the adventitia.

Conclusions: Homocysteine had a mitogenic effect on vascular SMCs and a cytotoxic effect on endothelial cells. This differential effect of homocysteine on vascular cells may represent a pathogenic mechanism of vascular lesion formation in patients with hyperhomocysteinemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Angioplasty, Balloon
  • Animals
  • Carotid Arteries / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Homocysteine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / drug effects*
  • Perfusion
  • Swine


  • Homocysteine