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Hypertension. 2007 Dec;50(6):1063-8. Epub 2007 Oct 29.

Hypertension and hypercholesterolemia differentially affect the function and structure of pig carotid artery.

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Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


The purpose of this work was to compare the effects of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia on carotid endothelial function, structure, and vasa vasorum density. Seventeen pigs were randomized to a 12-week normal diet without (n=5), or with renovascular hypertension (HT; n=6), or to a high cholesterol diet (HC; n=6). Carotid arteries were studied by organ chambers (endothelial function) and microcomputed tomography (vasa vasorum), and tissue was processed for Sirius red staining and immunoblotting (vascular endothelium growth factor, endostatin, matrix metalloproteinase-9, and matrix metalloproteinase-2). HC and HT showed reduced vasodilation to acetylcholine as compared with controls, but HT also had a lower response to sodium nitroprusside. In addition, HT showed a higher content of organized collagen fibers and increased intima-media thickness. Vasa vasorum density was increased in HC but not in HT. Both HT and HC showed a proangiogenetic biochemical milieu (higher vascular endothelium growth factor, matrix metalloproteinases, and lower endostatin), but this was more pronounced in HC. Both hypertension and hypercholesterolemia induce endothelial dysfunction in the carotid artery. However, hypertension is also associated with greater fibrosis and vascular wall thickening, which might impair endothelium-independent vasorelaxation and vasa vasorum growth. Hypercholesterolemia is, in turn, associated with vasa vasorum neovascularization. These data suggest that carotid atherosclerosis can evolve through different mechanisms in relation to different risk factors.

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