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Histochem Cell Biol. 2001 Mar;115(3):231-42.

Expression of cell adhesion molecule T-cadherin in the human vasculature.

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Laboratory for Molecular Endocrinology, Institute of Experimental Cardiology, Cardiology Research Center, 121552 Moscow, Russia.


Alterations in expression of surface adhesion molecules on resident vascular and blood-derived cells play a fundamental role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) have been shown to express T-cadherin (T-cad), an unusual GPI-anchored member of the cadherin family of adhesion molecules. Particular relevance for T-cad in cardiovascular tissues is indicated by our present screen (immunoblotting) of human tissues and organs whereby highest expression of T-cad was found in aorta, carotid, iliac and renal arteries and heart. To explore the (patho)physiological role for T-cad in the vasculature we performed an immunohistochemical analysis of T-cad expression in normal human aorta and atherosclerotic lesions of varying severity. T-cad was present both in the intima and media and was expressed in endothelial cells (ECs), SMCs and pericytes, but not in monocytes/macrophages, foam cells and lymphocytes. In the adventitia T-cad was present in the wall of vasa vasorum and was expressed in ECs, SMCs and pericytes. T-cad was differentially expressed in SMCs from distinct vascular layers of normal aorta (for example, high in the subendothelial (proteoglycan) layer of the intima, low in the musculoelastic intimal layer and in the media), as well as at different stages of lesion progression. In SMCs there was an apparent inverse relationship between the intensities of T-cad and smooth muscle alpha-actin expression, this being most prominent in lesions. The findings suggest a phenotype-associated expression of T-cad which may be relevant to control of the normal vascular architecture and its remodelling during atherogenesis.

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