Background: The molecular mechanisms leading to ascending thoracic aortic aneurysms (ATAAs) remain unknown. We hypothesized that alterations in expression levels of specific fibrillar collagens occur during the aneurysmal process.
Methods: Surgical samples from ascending aortas from patients with degenerative ATAAs were subdivided by aneurysm diameter: small, 5 to 6 cm; medium, 6 to 7 cm; and large, greater than 7 cm; and compared with nonaneurysmal aortas (mean diameter, 2.3 cm).
Results: Histology, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy demonstrated greater disorganization of extracellular matrix constituents in ATAAs as compared with control with an increase in collagen alpha1(XI) within regions of cystic medial degenerative lesions. Real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed collagens type V and alpha1(XI) were significantly and linearly increased in ATAAs as compared with control (p < 0.001). There was no change in the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression levels of collagens type I and III. Western blot analysis showed collagens type I and III were significantly decreased and collagens alpha1(XI) and V were significantly increased and were linearly correlated with the size of the aneurysm (p < 0.001 for both).
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that increased collagen alpha1(XI) and collagen V mRNA and protein levels are linearly correlated with the size of the aneurysm and provide a potential mechanism for the generation and progression of aneurysmal enlargement.