Orekhov AN, Andreeva ER, Mikhailova IA, Gordon D
Atherosclerosis 1998 Jul 139(1):41-48.
Local accumulation of cells (hypercellularity) in the intima of the arterial wall as a result of cell proliferation is recognized as one of the major manifestations of human atherosclerosis. In the present study we have used a monoclonal antibody against PCNA to identify the proliferative activity, in uninvolved intima of human aorta classified as diffuse intimal thickening, and in different types of atherosclerotic lesions: specifically, initial lesion, fatty streak, fibroatheroma and fibrous plaque. As compared with a diffuse intimal thickening, the cell number in the initial lesions, fatty streaks and in a fibrolipid plaque (fibroatheroma) was 1.5-3-fold higher, while the cellularity in a fibrous plaque (fibrotic lesion) was lower than in a fibroatheroma and comparable with the cell number in the initial lesions. Using monoclonal antibodies, inflammatory cells (T- and B-lymphocytes as well as monocytes-macrophages) have been revealed in the intima. However, most (84-93%) of the intimal cells were noninflammatory cells classified as resident cells possessing the antigens of smooth muscle cells and pericytes as well as a small number of cells unidentifiable with the antibodies used. The highest number of proliferating cells was found in a fibroatheroma (11-fold higher as compared with a diffuse intimal thickening). A significant, but lesser increase of PCNA-positive cells was revealed in other types of lesions, too. The proliferative 'splash' in lipid-rich lesions suggests a relationship between the lipid accumulation in atherosclerotic intima and the stimulation of proliferation. The highest proliferative index of resident cells (i.e. percentage of the PCNA-positive cells among the total number of resident cells) was revealed in fibrotic lesions. It was approximately eight-fold higher than in a diffuse intimal thickening. The proliferative index of inflammatory cells considerably exceeded that of resident cells. However, in all types of atherosclerotic lesions and in a diffuse intimal thickening it showed no significant differences and was similar to the proliferative index of inflammatory cells isolated from peripheral blood. This suggests that an increased number of resident cells in atherosclerotic lesions can be explained by stimulation of their proliferative activity, whereas an altered inflammatory cell number is rather a result of their penetration from the blood into the subendothelial intima with a constant proliferative index.