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Stroke. 1996 Jun;27(6):1118-22; discussion 1122-3.

Confocal microscopic characterization of a lesion in a cerebral vessel of the stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rat.

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Clinical Research Initiative in Heart Failure, University of Glasgow, UK.



Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke and is associated with alterations in vascular structure and function. The aim of this study was to determine vascular function, wall morphology, and vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) arrangement in basilar arteries from stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRSP) and normotensive control strain Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY). The effect of perindopril treatment on SHRSP structure and function was also assessed.


VSMC orientation was determined with laser-scanning confocal microscopy and computer-assisted image processing in basilar arteries stained with 5(6)-carboxyfluorescein (wavelengths: excitation, 488; emission, 515) or propidium iodide (excitation, 529; emission, 550). Measurements of wall morphology and functional responses to serotonin and KCl were assessed with wire myography.


In the WKY basilar arteries, VSMCs were uniformly oriented perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the vessel, whereas in the SHRSP there were localized foci of VSMC geometric disorganization, with a significant deviation from 90 degrees. The SHRSP basilar arteries also showed structural remodeling and reduced contractile responses to serotonin and KCl. Perindopril treatment normalized blood pressure, prevented wall morphology alterations, and improved function but had no effect on VSMC disorganization.


This is the first demonstration of lesions of VSMC geometric disorganization in a cerebral artery from a stroke-prone genetically hypertensive rat strain. These structural abnormalities are independent of blood pressure. Their functional sequel may play a role in the pathogenesis of stroke in this model.

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