Objective: Generalized disruption of arterial wall morphological changes in patients harboring cerebral aneurysms has been documented; however, little is known regarding the pathogenesis of these changes. To explore the role of the elastolytic gelatinase, matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), levels of this enzyme in the wall of intracranial aneurysms were compared with those in both intracranial and extracranial arteries. The tissue levels of its major inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP), were measured in these tissues as well. The activity of MMP-9 in plasma was also evaluated.
Methods: The aneurysm wall was excised from three of six patients undergoing craniotomies for aneurysm clipping. A 1-cm segment of superficial temporal artery (STA) was obtained from each of six patients. Additional STAs were obtained from six patients in the control group who were undergoing craniotomies for nonvascular disease. An intracranial artery was also obtained from the anterior temporal neocortical resection of a patient undergoing a craniotomy for mesial temporal sclerosis. MMP-9 and TIMP levels were determined via Western blot analysis. Using substrate gel Zymography, MMP-9 plasma activity was determined for a separate cohort of patients with aneurysms (n = 6) and patients in the control group (n = 6).
Results: MMP-9 and TIMP levels in the aneurysm wall were markedly increased beyond levels in both extracranial arteries (STAs from patients with aneurysms and patients in the control group) and the intracranial artery. There were no differences in the levels of MMP-9 in the STAs of patients harboring aneurysms when compared with patients in the control group. Also, no differences were noted in plasma MMP-9 activity.
Conclusion: Local rather than systemic perturbations in MMP-9 levels may contribute to the matrix disruption associated with cerebral aneurysms. This local up-regulation is not the result of TIMP down-regulation. The lack of increased systemic metalloproteinase activity precludes the use of plasma MMP-9 activity as a screening tool for presymptomatic aneurysms. However, local therapeutic modulation of MMP-9 activity may help arrest aneurysm progression.