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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1998 Feb;18(2):157-67.

Expression of extracellular SOD and iNOS in macrophages and smooth muscle cells in human and rabbit atherosclerotic lesions: colocalization with epitopes characteristic of oxidized LDL and peroxynitrite-modified proteins.

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  • 1A.I. Virtanen Institute and Department of Medicine, University of Kuopio, Finland.


Oxidative processes play an important role in atherogenesis. Because superoxide anion and nitric oxide (NO) are important mediators in vascular pathology, we studied the expression of extracellular superoxide dismutase (EC-SOD) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in human and rabbit atherosclerotic lesions by using simultaneous in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry and EC-SOD enzyme activity measurements. We also analyzed the presence in the arterial wall of oxidized lipoproteins and peroxynitrite-modified proteins as indicators of oxidative damage and possible mediators in vascular pathology. EC-SOD and iNOS mRNA and protein were expressed in smooth muscle cells and macrophages in early and advanced lesions. The expression of both enzymes was especially prominent in macrophages. As measured by enzyme activity, EC-SOD was the major SOD isoenzyme in the arterial wall. EC-SOD activity was higher in highly cellular rabbit lesions but lower in advanced, connective tissue-rich human lesions. Despite the abundant expression of EC-SOD, malondialdehyde-lysine and hydroxynonenal-lysine epitopes characteristic of oxidized lipoproteins and nitrotyrosine residues characteristic of peroxynitrite-modified proteins were detected in iNOS-positive, macrophage-rich lesions, thus implying that malondialdehyde, hydroxynonenal, and peroxynitrite are important mediators of oxidative damage. We conclude that EC-SOD, iNOS, and the balance between NO and superoxide anion play important roles in atherogenesis. EC-SOD and iNOS are highly expressed in lesion macrophages. High EC-SOD expression in the arterial wall may be required not only to prevent deleterious effects of superoxide anion but also to preserve NO activity and prevent peroxynitrite formation. Modulation of arterial EC-SOD and iNOS activities could provide means to protect arteries against atherosclerotic vascular disease.

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