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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1998 Jul;18(7):1035-45.

Function of the plasminogen/plasmin and matrix metalloproteinase systems after vascular injury in mice with targeted inactivation of fibrinolytic system genes.

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Center for Molecular and Vascular Biology, University of Leuven, Belgium.


The matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) system, which may be activated via the plasminogen (Plg)/plasmin system, is claimed to play a role in matrix degradation and smooth muscle cell migration. To test the role of both systems, expression of fibrinolytic and gelatinolytic activity was quantified after vascular injury in mice with targeted inactivation of tissue-type Plg activator (tPA-/-), urokinase-type Plg activator (uPA-/-), or Plg (Plg-/-). Neointima formation 1 week after vascular injury was impaired in uPA-/- and Plg-/- mice compared with wild-type (WT) mice or tPA-/- mice (reduction of neointimal area to 30% and 10% of WT, respectively). Cell accumulation at the borders of the injury was significantly (P<0.01) impaired compared with that in WT mice. One week after injury of the femoral artery, tPA-mediated fibrinolytic activity in arterial sections or extracts of WT, uPA-/-, or Plg-/- mice was not altered, whereas uPA activity levels in tPA-/- and Plg-/- mice were 2- to 3-fold higher than in uninjured controls. Total levels (latent plus active) of MMP-2 (gelatinase A) were increased by 2- to 4-fold, whereas the contribution of active MMP-2 represented 38% to 63% of the total in the different genotypes. MMP-9 (gelatinase B) was not detectable in the majority of control arteries, whereas total MMP-9 levels after injury were dramatically increased (up to 50-fold above the detection limit). Active MMP-9 represented 20% to 46% of total MMP-9 in WT, tPA-/-, and uPA-/- mice but was not consistently detectable in Plg-/- mice. Similar results were obtained in carotid arteries. Thus, the unaltered ratios of active and latent MMP-2 suggest that proMMP-2 activation may occur in the absence of tPA, uPA, or Plg, whereas no active MMP-9 was detected in the absence of Plg. The data of this study confirm a role for uPA and Plg but not for tPA in smooth muscle cell migration and neointima formation after vascular injury and indicate that impairment of these phenomena may occur despite the observed increases in MMP-2 or MMP-9 levels after vascular injury.

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