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Circulation. 1997 Jan 7;95(1):205-12.

Evidence for altered balance between matrix metalloproteinases and their inhibitors in human aortic diseases.

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Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Although abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) exhibit increased expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), the functional balance between MMPs and their tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) remains uncertain. This report compares the proteolytic activity in normal aorta, aorto-occlusive disease (AOD), and AAA by use of a novel in situ zymographic technique.


Infrarenal aortic specimens were obtained from 25 patients undergoing surgery for AOD or AAA and were compared with normal aortic tissue (n = 7) obtained from cadavers. Immunohistochemical staining was performed for collagenase (MMP-1), gelatinase A (MMP-2), stromelysin (MMP-3), TIMP-1, and TIMP-2. Net proteolytic activity was determined with in situ zymography whereby aortic sections were incubated on fluorescently labeled substrate. Proteolytic activity was detected under epifluorescent examination. Compared with normal aortic tissue, AOD and AAA tissue demonstrated marked increases in MMP-1 and MMP-3 immunoreactivity, predominantly in the neointima, and modest increases in TIMP-1. MMP-2 was increased in the diseased aortas, and TIMP-2 was abundant in normal, AOD, and AAA samples. Zymography revealed proteolytic activity in AOD and AAA tissues with active digestion of casein and gelatin substrate, particularly on the luminal portion of the specimens. Normal specimens exhibited no lytic activity. Comparison of AOD and AAA specimens revealed no difference in MMP/TIMP immunoreactivity or net proteolytic activity.


MMP expression is markedly increased in AOD and AAA samples, and an imbalance between MMPs and their inhibitors results in similar proteolytic activity. The eventual formation of aneurysmal or occlusive lesions appears not to result from an ongoing difference in the proteolytic pattern.

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