We have investigated the temporal relationship between the hemodynamic and histological/morphological progression in a rat model of pulmonary arterial hypertension that develops pulmonary arterial lesions morphologically indistinguishable from those in human pulmonary arterial hypertension. Adult male rats were injected with Sugen5416 and exposed to hypoxia for 3 wk followed by a return to normoxia for various additional weeks. At 1, 3, 5, 8, and 13 wk after the Sugen5416 injection, hemodynamic and histological examinations were performed. Right ventricular systolic pressure reached its maximum 5 wk after Sugen5416 injection and plateaued thereafter. Cardiac index decreased at the 3∼5-wk time point, and tended to further decline at later time points. Reflecting these changes, calculated total pulmonary resistance showed a pattern of progressive worsening. Acute intravenous fasudil markedly reduced the elevated pressure and resistance at all time points tested. The percentage of severely occluded small pulmonary arteries showed a similar pattern of progression to that of right ventricular systolic pressure. These small vessels were occluded predominantly with nonplexiform-type neointimal formation except for the 13-wk time point. There was no severe occlusion in larger arteries until the 13-wk time point, when significant numbers of vessels were occluded with plexiform-type neointima. The Sugen5416/hypoxia/normoxia-exposed rat shows a pattern of chronic hemodynamic progression similar to that observed in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients. In addition to vasoconstriction, nonplexiform-type neointimal occlusion of small arteries appears to contribute significantly to the early phase of pulmonary arterial hypertension development, and plexiform-type larger vessel occlusion may play a role in the late deterioration.
Keywords: neointimal occlusion; plexiform; vasoconstriction.