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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47134. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047134. Epub 2012 Oct 11.

Plaque rupture complications in murine atherosclerotic vein grafts can be prevented by TIMP-1 overexpression.

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Einthoven Laboratory for Experimental Vascular Medicine, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


The current study describes the incidence and phenotype of plaque rupture complications in murine vein grafts. Since matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are highly involved in atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability and plaque rupture, we hypothesized that this model can be validated by overexpression of the MMP inhibitor TIMP-1. First we studied 47 vein grafts in hypercholesterolemic ApoE3*Leiden mice for the incidence of plaque complications. In 79% of these grafts, extensive lesions with plaque rupture complications like dissections, intraplaque hemorrhages or erosions with intramural thrombi were found. Next, in vivo Near-InfraRed-Fluorescence imaging demonstrated that electroporation mediated TIMP-1-overexpression reduced local MMP activity in vein grafts by 73% (p<0.01). This led to a 40% reduction in lesion-size after 28d (p = 0.01) and a more stable lesion phenotype with significant more smooth muscle cells (135%), collagen (47%) and significant less macrophages (44%) and fibrin (55%) than controls. More importantly, lesions in the TIMP-1 group showed a 90% reduction of plaque complications (10/18 of control mice showed plaque complications versus 1/18 in TIMP-1 treated mice). Murine vein grafts are a relevant spontaneous model to study plaque stability and subsequent hemorrhagic complications, resulting in plaque instability. Moreover, inhibition of MMPs by TIMP-1-overexpression resulted in decreased plaque progression, increased stabilization and decreased plaque rupture complications in murine vein grafts.

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