Elevations of tissue-type plasminogen activator and differential expression of urokinase-type plasminogen activator in diseased aorta

J Vasc Surg. 1997 Jan;25(1):157-64. doi: 10.1016/s0741-5214(97)70333-1.


Purpose: Elevations of plasmin have been implicated in the pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) because of its ability to digest extracellular matrix proteins. Plasminogen activators regulate the conversion of plasminogen to plasmin. Tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) is more important in modulation of fibrinolysis, and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) is predominant in tissue remodeling. The purpose of this study was to determine the levels of plasminogen activators in diseased aorta because they may be responsible for the increased plasmin levels previously described in AAA.

Methods: Levels of tPA and uPA in AAA, occlusive, and normal (organ donor) aorta were studied in tissue explant supernatants. Supernatant tPA and uPA levels were measured with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Northern analysis was used to quantitate uPA messenger RNA (mRNA) levels in aortic tissue.

Results: Levels of tPA in the supernatants were similar in occlusive (20 +/- 4 ng/ml) and AAA (23 +/- 8) aorta, but threefold higher than in normal aorta (7 +/- 5; p < 0.005 for normal vs occlusive and p < 0.001 for normal vs AAA). In contrast, uPA supernatant levels were differentially expressed, with the highest level existing in AAA (9.7 +/- 2.7 ng/ml), followed by occlusive (4.9 +/- 3.5), and the lowest levels in normal aorta (1.2 +/- 0.7; p < 0.05 for normal vs occlusive, p < 0.001 for normal vs AAA, and p < 0.005 for occlusive vs AAA). Inhibition of protein or RNA synthesis by addition of cyclohexamide or actinomycin D, respectively, revealed no significant difference between treated and control supernatants, suggesting that the increases were caused by protein release rather than active synthesis. Levels of uPA mRNA followed the same trend as the supernatant uPA levels (AAA 1.07 +/- 0.54, occlusive 0.54 +/- 0.08, and normal aorta 0.01 +/- 0.01).

Conclusions: Levels of tPA were similar in aneurysmal and occlusive aorta, but exhibited a threefold increase over normal aorta, suggesting that the elevations of tPA are associated with the arteriosclerosis present in both aneurysmal and occlusive disease. Differences in uPA levels were significant between all three groups, with the highest levels in AAA and the lowest levels in normal specimens. Northern analysis of uPA mRNA followed the same trend, suggesting that the increase in uPA may be regulated at the level of transcription. As uPA plays an important role in tissue remodeling, our findings may also reflect the relative tissue repair activities in these three types of specimens and may explain the previously reported increased levels of plasmin seen in AAA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Aorta / enzymology*
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / enzymology*
  • Aortic Diseases / enzymology*
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / enzymology*
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Culture Techniques
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasminogen Activators / analysis*
  • Plasminogen Activators / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / analysis*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / genetics
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / analysis*
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / genetics


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Plasminogen Activators
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator