Atherosclerotic Plaque Smooth Muscle Cells Have a Distinct Phenotype

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The present study addresses the question, “Are plaque smooth muscles cells (SMCs) genetically distinct from medial SMCs as reflected by the ability to maintain a distinctive expression phenotype in vitro?”

Methods and Results—

Multiple cell strains were developed from carotid endarcterectomy specimens, and quadruplicate array hybridizations were completed for each sample. A new normalization protocol was developed and used to analyze the data. Permutation analysis suggests that most of the significant differences in expression could not have occurred by chance. A broad pattern of significant expression differences, consisting of almost 5% of the genes probed, was detected. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) confirmation was found in 70% of a subset of genes selected for validation.


The SMC cultures were nearly indistinguishable by morphological features, population doubling time, and sensitivity to cell death induced by Fas cross-linking. Surprisingly, array expression analysis identified differences so extensive that we conclude that plaque and medial SMCs are distinctly different SMC cell types.

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