The ultrastructure of pulmonary arteries and arterioles in emphysema

J Pathol. 1992 May;167(1):69-75. doi: 10.1002/path.1711670112.


The lungs from three cases of pulmonary emphysema obtained at heart-lung transplantation were examined by electron microscopy to determine the origin of intimal longitudinal muscle and the formation of muscular tubes in small pulmonary arteries and arterioles. The earliest change consisted of migration of mature smooth muscle cells from the media of small pulmonary arteries, through gaps in the internal elastic lamina, into the subendothelial space. Most of these cells then adopted a longitudinal orientation, maintained a muscular phenotype, and became enmeshed in a web of elastic fibres. A small minority, immediately subjacent to the endothelium, were orientated circularly and, in some vessels, were enclosed by rudimentary internal and external elastic laminae to form early muscular tubes. Pulmonary arterioles, which are normally devoid of a media, contained several layers of circularly orientated smooth muscle cells, some of which also formed muscular tubes. It is postulated that the limited migration of mature smooth muscle cells seen in states of chronic hypoxia is mediated by a different stimulus from that causing the florid invasion of the intima by immature smooth muscle, with subsequent transformation into myofibroblasts, which characterize plexogenic pulmonary arteriopathy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arterioles / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Pulmonary Artery / ultrastructure*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / pathology*