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Arterioscler Thromb. 1994 Jan;14(1):141-7.

Atherosclerosis in mice lacking apo E. Evaluation of lesional development and progression.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599-7525.

Erratum in

  • Arterioscler Thromb 1994 May;14(5):839.


Apolipoprotein E-deficient mice have spontaneous elevations of total plasma cholesterol and triglycerides and reduced high-density lipoprotein. The mice develop arterial lesions in a time-dependent manner. Lesional distribution was centered in the aortic sinus in young mice, and the lesions were widely distributed throughout the arterial tree in mice at 8 to 9 months of age. In young mice, subendothelial foam cell deposits were present in the aortic sinus adjacent to valve-attachment sites. By 5 months of age, foam cell deposits, free cholesterol, and admixed smooth muscle cells composed the developing atherosclerotic lesions. After 8 to 9 months of age, the arterial lesions showed increased complexity, and fibrous cap lesions were present. Transmission electron microscopy showed foam cells, smooth muscle cells (both contractile and synthetic varieties), cellular debris, and acicular cholesterol deposits within the plaques. By scanning electron microscopy, subendothelial collections of foam cells were present within the aortic sinus and ascending aorta. The results show that the complexity of the atherosclerotic lesions that develop in these apo E deficient-mice are similar to those described in other species and therefore represent an important model for studies of genetic and environmental influences on the atherosclerotic process.

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