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Sheng Li Xue Bao. 2012 Feb 25;64(1):14-26.

[In-vivo and ex-vivo studies on region-specific remodeling of large elastic arteries due to simulated weightlessness and its prevention by gravity-based countermeasure].

[Article in Chinese]

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  • 1Department of Aerospace Physiology, Xijing Hospital, the Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an 710032, China.


The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that a medium-term simulated microgravity can induce region-specific remodeling in large elastic arteries with their innermost smooth muscle (SM) layers being most profoundly affected. The second purpose was to examine whether these changes can be prevented by a simulated intermittent artificial gravity (IAG). The third purpose was to elucidate whether vascular local renin-angiotensin system (L-RAS) plays an important role in the regional vascular remodeling and its prevention by the gravity-based countermeasure. This study consisted of two interconnected series of in-vivo and ex-vivo experiments. In the in-vivo experiments, the tail-suspended, hindlimb unloaded rat model was used to simulate microgravity-induced cardiovascular deconditioning for 28 days (SUS group); and during the simulation period, another group was subjected to daily 1-hour dorso-ventral (-G(x)) gravitation provided by restoring to normal standing posture (S + D group). The activity of vascular L-RAS was evaluated by examining the gene and protein expression of angiotensinogen (Ao) and angiotensin II receptor type 1 (AT1R) in the arterial wall tissue. The results showed that SUS induced an increase in the media thickness of the common carotid artery due to hypertrophy of the four SM layers and a decrease in the total cross-sectional area of the nine SM layers of the abdominal aorta without significant change in its media thickness. And for both arteries, the most prominent changes were in the innermost SM layers. Immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization revealed that SUS induced an up- and down-regulation of Ao and AT1R expression in the vessel wall of common carotid artery and abdominal aorta, respectively, which was further confirmed by Western blot analysis and real time PCR analysis. Daily 1-hour restoring to normal standing posture over 28 days fully prevented these remodeling and L-RAS changes in the large elastic arteries that might occur due to SUS alone. In the ex-vivo experiments, to elucidate the important role of transmural pressure in vascular regional remodeling and differential regulation of L-RAS activity, we established an organ culture system in which rat common carotid artery, held at in-vivo length, can be perfused and pressurized at varied flow and pressure for 7 days. In arteries perfused at a flow rate of 7.9 mL/min and pressurized at 150 mmHg, but not at 0 or 80 mmHg, for 3 days led to an augmentation of c-fibronectin (c-FN) expression, which was also more markedly expressed in the innermost SM layers, and an increase in Ang II production detected in the perfusion fluid. However, the enhanced c-FN expression and increased Ang II production that might occur due to a sustained high perfusion pressure alone were fully prevented by daily restoration to 0 or 80 mmHg for a short duration. These findings from in-vivo and ex-vivo experiments have provided evidence supporting our hypothesis that redistribution of transmural pressures might be the primary factor that initiates region-specific remodeling of arteries during microgravity and the mechanism of IAG is associated with an intermittent restoration of the transmural pressures to their normal distribution. And they also provide support to the hypothesis that L-RAS plays an important role in vascular adaptation to microgravity and its prevention by the IAG countermeasure.

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