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J Vasc Surg. 2002 Mar;35(3):539-46.

Differential regulation of matrix metalloproteinase activities in abdominal aortic aneurysms.

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Laboratoire de Médecine Moléculaire, Centre de Cancérologie Charles-Bruneau, Hôpital Sainte-Justine-UQAM, Montreal, PQ, Canada.



The increased synthesis of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) by aortic smooth muscle cells (SMCs) is thought to be involved in the etiopathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), but the functional regulation and the activation states of these MMPs remain unclear. In this study, we assessed the expression levels and the functional regulation of several MMPs in the pathogenesis of AAAs.


Human healthy aorta and AAA specimens were homogenized, and the proteolytic activities of MMP-2 and MMP-9 and of the macrophage metalloelastase (MMP-12) were assessed with zymography. Protein expression of MMP-1, MMP-12, membrane-type 1 MMP (MT1-MMP), tissue inhibitor of MMP 1 (TIMP-1), TIMP-2, TIMP-3, alpha-actin, and beta-actin was analyzed with electrophoresis on sodium dodecyl sulfate gels and immunoblotting.


MMP-1, MMP-9, and MMP-12 zymogen levels and proteolytic activities were increased in AAAs when compared with healthy aorta. A severe reduction in alpha-actin--positive vascular SMCs was observed in all the AAA specimens and was correlated with an increase in TIMP-3 but not TIMP-1 or TIMP-2 potential activities. Although pro--MMP-2 activity was decreased, the extent of activated MMP-2 remained unaffected in the AAAs. In accordance with this result, a highly activated MT1-MMP form was also observed in AAAs.


These data suggest that chronic aortic wall inflammation is mediated by macrophage infiltration, which may account for the destruction of medial elastin, as reflected by SMC down regulation, through increased levels of active MMP-1 and MMP-12. Moreover, altered MT1-MMP proteolytic turnover and differential regulation of TIMP expression in AAAs suggest that tight regulatory mechanisms are involved in the molecular regulation of MMP activation processes in the pathogenesis of AAAs.

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