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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2011 Nov;31(11):2500-8. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.111.230201.

Cathepsin L activity is essential to elastase perfusion-induced abdominal aortic aneurysms in mice.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



The development of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) requires extensive aortic wall matrix degradation. Human AAA lesions express high levels of cathepsin L (CatL), one of the most potent mammalian elastases. Whether this protease participates directly in AAA pathogenesis, however, is unknown.


We generated experimental AAA with aortic elastase perfusion in mice and established an essential role of CatL in AAA formation. After 14 days postperfusion, most wild-type (Ctsl(+/+)) mice developed AAA, but none of the CatL-deficient (Ctsl(-/-)) mice did. AAA lesion macrophage contents, CD4(+) T cell numbers, CD31(+) and laminin-5 angiogenic fragment γ2(+) microvessel numbers, and elastin fragmentation were all significantly lower in Ctsl(-/-) mice than in Ctsl(+/+) mice. While lesions from Ctsl(-/-) mice contained fewer Ki67(+) proliferating cells than did Ctsl(+/+) mice, the absence of CatL did not affect lesion apoptotic cell contents or medial smooth-muscle cell loss significantly. Mechanistic studies indicated that the absence of CatL reduced lesion chemokine monocyte chemotactic protein-1 content, macrophage and T-cell in vitro transmigration, and angiogenesis, and altered the expression and activities of matrix metalloproteinases and other cysteinyl cathepsins in inflammatory cells, vascular cells, and AAA lesions.


CatL contributes to AAA formation by promoting lesion inflammatory cell accumulation, angiogenesis, and protease expression.

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