Background: Phenotypic variation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) may result in altered biological behavior and responses. Within the vessel wall, arterial VSMC have a greater propensity to form atherosclerotic lesions as compared to venous VSMC. In this study the rates of proliferation, adhesion, and migration were compared between VSMC of atherosclerotic arterial and venous origin.
Materials and methods: Human VSMC cultures were isolated from 18 infragenicular arteries at the time of below knee amputation and from 20 saphenous veins during lower extremity revascularization surgery. Cell cultures were isolated from the media of each specimen and maintained in distinct cell lines for all assays. Cells from passages 2 and 3 were assayed for their proliferative capacity using total DNA fluorescence photometry and for adhesion and migration using a modified Boyden chamber.
Results: Patient age and the incidence of atherosclerotic risk factors did not vary significantly between the arterial and the venous patient groups. VSMC of atherosclerotic arterial origin demonstrated greater proliferation (arterial, 162 +/- 59 absorption units, vs. venous, 106 +/- 56 absorption units, P < 0.001), adhesion (arterial, 74.1 +/- 22.6 cells/microscopic field, vs. venous, 41.3 +/- 12.8 cells/microscopic field, P < 0.001) and migration (arterial, 427 +/- 185 cells/microscopic field, vs venous, 119 +/- 101 cells/microscopic field, P < 0.001) than VSMC of venous origin.
Conclusion: Human atherosclerotic arterial VSMC exhibit significantly increased rates of proliferation, adhesion, and migration as compared to human venous VSMC. These observations of VSMC in culture are consistent with the clinical predilection for the hyperplasic responses that result in the development of atherosclerosis in the arterial wall. Possible intrinsic differences in VSMC phenotype should be considered in designing methods to limit atherosclerosis.