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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2008 Jun;294(6):H2831-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.91428.2007. Epub 2008 Apr 25.

Mild inflammatory activation of mammary arteries in patients with acute coronary syndromes.

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  • 1Clinical Cardiovascular Biology Laboratory and Cardiac Surgery Unit, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Department, University Vita-Salute, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milano, Italy.


Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) are characterized by multiple unstable coronary plaques and elevated circulating levels of inflammatory biomarkers. The endothelium of internal mammary arteries (IMA), which are atherosclerosis resistant, is exposed to proinflammatory stimuli as vessels that develop atherosclerosis. Our study investigated the IMA endothelial expression of inflammatory molecules in patients with ACS or chronic stable angina (CSA). IMA demonstrated normal morphology, intact endothelial lining, and strong immunoreactivity for glucose transporter 1. E-selectin expression was observed more frequently in IMA of ACS patiention than CSA patients (ACS 61% vs. CSA 14%, P = 0.01). High fluorescence for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) was significantly more frequent on the luminal endothelium (ACS 66.7% vs. CSA 17.6%, P = 0.001 for class I; and ACS 66.7% vs. CSA 6.2%, P = 0.0003 for class II-DR) and on the vasa vasorum (ACS 92.9% vs. CSA 33.3% and 7.7%, P = 0.0007 and P < 0.0001 for class I and class II-DR, respectively) of ACS patients than CSA patients. ICAM-1, VCAM-1, Toll-like receptor 4, tissue factor, IL-6, inducible nitric oxide synthase, and TNF-alpha expression were not significantly different in ACS and CSA. Circulating C-reactive protein [ACS 4.8 (2.6-7.3) mg/l vs. CSA 1.8 (0.6-3.5) mg/l, P = 0.01] and IL-6 [ACS 4.0 (2.6-5.5) pg/ml vs. CSA 1.7 (1.4-4.0) pg/ml, P = 0.02] were higher in ACS than CSA, without a correlation with IMA inflammation. The higher E-selectin, MHC class I and MHC class II-DR on the endothelium and vasa vasorum of IMA from ACS patients suggests a mild, endothelial inflammatory activation in ACS, which can be unrelated to the presence of atherosclerotic coronary lesions. These findings indicated IMA as active vessels in coronary syndromes.

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