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Am J Pathol. Dec 1993; 143(6): 1551–1559.
PMCID: PMC1887258

Inducible expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 by vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro and within rabbit atheroma.


Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), a mononuclear leukocyte adhesion molecule, is expressed in cultured vascular endothelial cells activated by cytokines and is induced in rabbit aortic endothelium in vivo within 1 week after initiation of an atherogenic diet. We now demonstrate that vascular smooth muscle cells can also express VCAM-1 in rabbit atherosclerotic lesions in vivo and in response to cytokines in vitro. Immunohistochemical staining of aortas from rabbits fed a 0.3% cholesterol-containing diet revealed that a portion of smooth muscle cells within intimal foam cell-rich lesions expressed VCAM-1. The intimal VCAM-1-expressing cells localized predominantly in regions above the internal elastic lamina. These VCAM-1-positive cells had the typical spindle shape of smooth muscle cells but had reduced alpha-actin expression in comparison to normal medial smooth muscle cells, and did not bear markers for endothelium, macrophages, and T cells. In culture, rabbit aortic smooth muscle cells expressed VCAM-1 mRNA and protein in a time- and concentration-dependent fashion when exposed to interferon-gamma or Gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide. Cultured human vascular smooth muscle cells also expressed VCAM-1 mRNA and protein in response to lipopolysaccharide, interferon-gamma, and interleukin-4. The monokines interleukin-1 alpha and tumor necrosis factor-alpha did not induce VCAM-1 expression in either rabbit or human vascular smooth muscle cells. Inducible VCAM-1 expression by vascular smooth muscle cells in vivo during hypercholesterolemia and in vitro in response to certain cytokines suggests a broader range of VCAM-1 functions in vascular biology than heretofore appreciated.

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