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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2006 Feb;26(2):340-6. Epub 2005 Nov 23.

Lesional overexpression of matrix metalloproteinase-9 promotes intraplaque hemorrhage in advanced lesions but not at earlier stages of atherogenesis.

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Division of Biopharmaceutics, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.



Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is involved in atherosclerosis and elevated MMP-9 activity has been found in unstable plaques, suggesting a crucial role in plaque rupture. This study aims to assess the effect of MMP-9 on plaque stability in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice at different stages of plaque progression.


Atherosclerotic lesions were elicited in carotid arteries by perivascular collar placement. MMP-9 overexpression in intermediate or advanced plaques was effected by intraluminal incubation with an adenovirus (Ad.MMP-9). A subset was coincubated with Ad.TIMP-1. Mock virus served as a control. Plaques were analyzed histologically. In intermediate lesions, MMP-9 overexpression induced outward remodeling, as shown by a 30% increase in media size (p=0.03). In both intermediate and advanced lesions, prevalence of vulnerable plaque morphology tended to be increased. Half of MMP-9-treated lesions displayed intraplaque hemorrhage, whereas in controls and the Ad.MMP-9/Ad.TIMP-1 group this was 8% and 16%, respectively (p=0.007). Colocalization with neovessels may point to neo-angiogenesis as a source for intraplaque hemorrhage.


These data show a differential effect of MMP-9 at various stages of plaque progression and suggest that lesion-targeted MMP-9 inhibition might be a valuable therapeutic modality in stabilizing advanced plaques, but not at earlier stages of lesion progression.

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