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Atherosclerosis. 1998 Jan;136(1):153-61.

Psychosocial stress causes endothelial injury in cynomolgus monkeys via beta1-adrenoceptor activation.

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The Wallenberg Laboratory, Sahlgren's Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden.


Current evidence links psychosocial factors to exacerbation of diet-induced atherosclerosis in monkeys via activation of the sympathetic nervous system. However, it is uncertain whether these factors can potentiate initial lesion formation, and do so even in the absence of dietary provocation, and whether any such effects can be prevented by beta-adrenergic blockade. As endothelial injury has been considered an initiating event in atherogenesis, we studied the effect of psychosocial stress on endothelial integrity in 48 adult male cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). All animals were housed in 12 social groups of four monkeys each for 11 weeks. The monkeys in half of the groups were exposed to a socially unstable ('stressed') condition for 72 h and received saline (n = 8), a lipophilic beta1-blocker (metoprolol, 0.30 mg/kg per h; n = 8), or hydrophillic beta1-blocker (atenolol, 0.15 mg/kg per h; n = 8). The remaining six social groups were assigned to the socially stable (non-stressed) condition; for 72 h these animals all remained in their social groups and were similarly treated with saline (n = 8), metoprolol (n = 8), or atenolol (n = 8). The frequency of IgG-positive (injured) endothelial cells was estimated on en face (Häutchen) preparations from the thoracic aorta and coronary arteries. Psychosocial stress caused a significant increase in the number of injured endothelial cells in the circumostial areas of the descending thoracic aorta in the placebo group (0.3 vs. 0.8%, P < 0.02), an effect that had not been demonstrated previously. Moreover, beta-blockade significantly (P < 0.01) inhibited the stress effect, with no differences between the two beta-blocking agents. The number of injured endothelial cells in the non-branched portions of the aorta and coronary arteries were low and indistinguishable among groups; irregularities in the size and location of branching points in the coronary arteries precluded analysis of these sites. This study demonstrated that psychosocial stress induces endothelial injury, and that this effect is mediated via beta1-adrenoceptor activation.

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