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Lab Invest. 1998 Sep;78(9):1059-66.

Salt-sensitive aortic aneurysm and rupture in hypertensive transgenic mice that overproduce angiotensin II.

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Laboratory Animal Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


We studied the effect of excessive salt intake on vascular lesion development in hypertensive transgenic mice that overproduce angiotensin II, ie, Tsukuba hypertensive mice (THM). At 6 weeks of age, THM and C57BL/6J (controls) were given either 1% sodium chloride ("salt-loaded") drinking water or tap water for 30 days. Salt-loaded THM, but not controls, suffered frequent thoracic or abdominal cavity hemorrhage. THM mortality after 7 days of salt loading was 23%; after 30 days of salt loading, it rose to 67%. Hemorrhaging occurred due to the development of aortic aneurysm and rupture at the aortic arch and aorta near the renal arteries. Vascular lesions progressed with structural degeneration of the aortic media. Electronmicroscopic analysis revealed that intact THM already exhibited vascular remodeling consisting of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) with developed organelles and an increased extracellular matrix. Salt-loaded THM suffered aggravated vascular hypertrophy and vascular structure destruction by plasma material invasion, necrosis of VSMCs possessing extremely swollen cytoplasm and abundant organelles, and interlamellar bleeding, resulting in aortic aneurysm and eventual rupture. Interestingly, blood pressure levels and heart rates in salt-loaded THM did not differ significantly from those of controls; plasma renin activity between drinking regimens was also comparable between the two groups. Drinking volume and the concentration of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) in plasma, however, were significantly higher in salt-loaded THM than in intact THM. In addition to aneurysm localization, the findings regarding drinking volume and plasma ANP suggest that aortic aneurysm and rupture in salt-loaded THM occurred as the result of an unknown mechanical stress, other than blood pressure, on the aortic wall. High salt ingestion is involved in the development of thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysm in the presence of hypertension in the activated renin-angiotensin system. THM should therefore serve as a useful animal model for studying the pathogenesis of aortic aneurysm accompanied by hypertension.

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