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Am J Pathol. 1993 Dec;143(6):1634-48.

Type I collagen gene expression in human atherosclerosis. Localization to specific plaque regions.

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Department of Pathology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-0602.


Because collagen is a major component of the human atherosclerotic plaque, factors controlling collagen synthesis may have a profound influence on the volume growth of these intimal lesions. In human arteries, we compared normal vs atherosclerotic media vs intimas for type I collagen gene expression using immunocytochemistry and in situ messenger RNA hybridization with subsequent correlations with plaque topographical features. We also determined the associations of such collagen gene expression with proximity to monocyte/macrophages and T lymphocytes. Type I collagen synthesis appears to be upregulated in atherosclerotic plaques compared with their underlying medias and normal internal mammary arteries and coronary diffuse intimal thickenings. At least in established and advanced coronary and carotid plaques, type I collagen gene expression is focal and especially prevalent in fibrous cap and vascularized regions. Although macrophages and type I procollagen messenger RNA and protein are both found in atherosclerotic plaques, no apparent spatial correlation between macrophage presence and type I procollagen presence was found within these atherosclerotic intimas. Type I procollagen presence appears to be negatively associated with the spatial presence of T cells. Thus, human atherosclerotic plaques exhibit nonuniform patterns of type I collagen gene expression. Although the biochemical determinants of this focal gene expression have yet to be determined, it is conceivable that stimulatory/inhibitory cytokines and other factors (eg hemodynamics) play important roles in determining the focal nature of collagen synthesis in atherosclerosis.

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