Phenotypic modulation of smooth muscle cells during the formation of neointimal thickenings in the rat carotid artery after balloon injury: an electron-microscopic and stereological study

Cell Tissue Res. 1995 Sep;281(3):421-33. doi: 10.1007/BF00417860.


The formation of neointimal thickenings in the rat carotid artery after balloon injury was studied by a combination of electron-microscopic and stereological methods. All smooth muscle cells in the normal media had a contractile phenotype, the cytoplasm being dominated by myofilaments. Seven days after endothelial denudation, the smooth muscle cells in the innermost part of the media had assumed a synthetic phenotype by loss of myofilaments and formation of a large endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex. These cells moved through fine openings in the internal elastic lamina and gave rise to a growing neointima by proliferation and secretion of extracellular matrix components. Fourteen days after the operation, the neointima had almost reached its final size, and mitoses were no longer noted. Nevertheless, the cells maintained a synthetic phenotype with prominent secretory organelles, although myofilaments had started to become more abundant again. They were surrounded by an extracellular matrix made up of collagen fibrils and coalescing patches of elastin. Thirty-five days after the operation, an endothelial cell layer had reformed and covered most of the luminal vessel surface. In parallel, the smooth muscle cells in the neointima had returned to a contractile phenotype with a cytoplasm dominated by myofilaments. These findings provide a morphological basis for further analysis of the cellular and molecular interactions involved in the formation of neointimal thickenings after endothelial injury, and for the search for agents interfering with this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carotid Arteries / cytology
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology*
  • Carotid Arteries / ultrastructure
  • Catheterization / adverse effects
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / ultrastructure
  • Golgi Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Lysosomes / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / pathology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Phenotype
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors
  • Tunica Intima / cytology
  • Tunica Intima / injuries*
  • Tunica Intima / pathology
  • Tunica Media / cytology
  • Tunica Media / pathology
  • Tunica Media / ultrastructure