Expression of Type VIII Collagen After Cholesterol Diet and Injury in the Rabbit Model of Atherosclerosis

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This study presents an analysis of the expression of type VIII collagen mRNA in response to cholesterol diet and balloon injury in the rabbit iliac artery. The design of the animal experiments was as follows: 28 male New Zealand White rabbits were divided into the 3 different treatment groups. Group 1 received regular chow; group 2 was fed with a 1% cholesterol diet for 6 weeks and normal chow for 5 weeks; and group 3 underwent balloon injury, then 6 weeks of a 1% cholesterol diet, which was followed by 5 weeks of normal chow. The expression pattern of type VIII collagen mRNA was compared with that of the fibrillar collagen types I and III, transforming growth factor-beta 1, a factor known to exert the most potent stimulatory effect on collagen synthesis in vitro, and matrix metalloproteinase 1, a collagen-degrading enzyme. The cholesterol diet resulted in an upregulation of type VIII collagen, fibrillar collagens, transforming growth factor-beta 1, and matrix metalloproteinase I in the adventitia. Although the number of type VIII collagen mRNA-expressing cells in the media increased, no significant difference in overall expression levels was detectable by northern blot analysis. The ratio of medial smooth muscle cells expressing type VIII collagen mRNA to those expressing type I and type III collagen mRNA (CVIII:CI:CIII) changed from 1:1.88:0.03 in the normal media to 1:0.78:0.29. When cholesterol feeding was preceded by balloon injury, type VIII collagen mRNA expression concomitant with the fibrillar collagens was further upregulated over and above that level reported after cholesterol diet alone. In general, low levels of transforming growth factor-beta 1 mRNA correlated with high expression of matrix metalloproteinase I.

Our study indicates that a cholesterol diet resulted in a balanced reorganization of the collagen composition but did not result in marked collagen accumulation.This may provide an extracellular environment that favors migration and proliferation processes during early atherogenesis. It also demonstrates that type VIII collagen is highly expressed and deposited at later stages, and this may be linked to processes such as tissue reorganization during vascular repair and plaque stabilization. (Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1999;19:1201-1209.)

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