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J Clin Invest. Dec 1, 1998; 102(11): 1900–1910.
PMCID: PMC509141

Expression and localization of macrophage elastase (matrix metalloproteinase-12) in abdominal aortic aneurysms.


Elastolytic matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA), a disorder characterized by chronic aortic wall inflammation and destruction of medial elastin. The purpose of this study was to determine if human macrophage elastase (HME; MMP-12) might participate in this disease. By reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, HME mRNA was consistently demonstrated in AAA and atherosclerotic occlusive disease (AOD) tissues (six of six), but in only one of six normal aortas. Immunoreactive proteins corresponding to proHME and two products of extracellular processing were present in seven of seven AAA tissue extracts. Total HME recovered from AAA tissue was sevenfold greater than normal aorta (P < 0.001), and the extracted enzyme exhibited activity in vitro. Production of HME was demonstrated in the media of AAA tissues by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, but HME was not detected within the media of normal or AOD specimens. Importantly, immunoreactive HME was specifically localized to residual elastin fragments within the media of AAA tissue, particularly areas adjacent to nondilated normal aorta. In vitro, the fraction of MMP-12 sequestered by insoluble elastin was two- to fivefold greater than other elastases found in AAA tissue. Therefore, HME is prominently expressed by aneurysm-infiltrating macrophages within the degenerating aortic media of AAA, where it is also bound to residual elastic fiber fragments. Because elastin represents a critical component of aortic wall structure and a matrix substrate for metalloelastases, HME may have a direct and singular role in the pathogenesis of aortic aneurysms.

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