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Pathol Biol (Paris). 2001 May;49(4):310-25.

Function-structure relationship of elastic arteries in evolution: from microfibrils to elastin and elastic fibres.

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Groupe d'électrophysiologie moléculaire, laboratoire de bioénergétique fondamentale et appliquée, université Joseph Fourier, BP 53 X, 38041 Grenoble, France.


Evolution of species has led to the appearance of circulatory systems including blood vessels and one or more pulsatile pumps, typically resulting in a low-pressurised open circulation in most invertebrates and a high-pressurised closed circulation in vertebrates. In both open and closed circulations, the large elastic arteries proximal to the heart damp out the pulsatile flow and blood pressure delivered by the heart, in order to limit distal shear stress and to allow regular irrigation of downstream organs. To achieve this goal, networks of resilient and stiff proteins adapted to each situation--i.e. low or high blood pressure--have been developed in the arterial wall to provide it with non-linear elasticity. In the low-pressurised circulation of some invertebrates, the mechanical properties of arteries can almost be entirely microfibril-based, whereas, in high-pressurised circulations, they are due to an interplay between a highly resilient protein, an elastomer in the octopus and elastin in most vertebrates, and the rather stiff protein collagen. In vertebrate development, elastin is incorporated in elastic fibres, on a earlier deposited scaffold of microfibrils. The elastic fibres are then arranged in functional concentric elastic lamellae and, with the smooth muscle cells, lamellar units. The microfibrils may also play a direct functional role in all mature arteries of high- and low-pressurised circulations. Finally, since blood pressure regularly increases with developmental stages, it appears possible that the early deposition of microfibrils, which are highly-conserved in evolution, corresponds, at least in part, to an early microfibril-driven elasticity in low-pressurised arteries, present across species. In vertebrates, when pressure developmentally rises above a threshold value, the vascular wall stress may turn on the expression of other resilient protein genes, including the elastin gene. Elastin would then be deposited on microfibrils and resulting in the elastic fibre network and elastic lamellae whose mechanical properties are adapted to allow for proper arterial work at higher pressures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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