Expression of collagens and decorin during aortic arch artery development: implications for matrix pattern formation

Matrix Biol. 1995 Jul;14(7):573-82. doi: 10.1016/s0945-053x(05)80006-x.


The elastic matrix of the large arteries shows a high level of spatial order. However, the mechanisms by which such order is established and maintained are largely unknown. The embryonic development of the avian heart and great vessels provides an appropriate model to investigate these mechanisms. In control embryos, an elastic matrix with a high level of spatial order develops in the nascent great vessels. But after the normal vascular smooth muscle (VSM) progenitor cells in the great vessels are experimentally replaced by other VSM progenitor cells, the elastic extracellular matrix is congenitally disordered. The present study used this model to test the hypothesis that the proteoglycan decorin was involved in the establishment and maintenance of the normal three-dimensional spatial order of the vascular elastic matrix. The temporospatial expression of decorin was analysed during development of normal vessels and in experimental vessels with surrogate VSM. The results showed the following: (1) the expression of decorin was related in time and space to the establishment of large helical collagen type III fibers that are characteristic of the normal elastic extracellular matrix; (2) in the experimental extracellular matrix there were few helical fibers of collagen type III, but those that were present remained positive for decorin; and (3) in both control and experimental vessels, decorin associated with neither fibers of collagen type I nor fibers of collagen type III in any conformation other than the large helical fibers. These data indicate a previously unrecognized relationship between decorin and the spatial order of the physiologically significant helical fibers of collagen type III.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / embryology*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Decorin
  • Elastic Tissue / embryology
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism*


  • Decorin
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • Collagen