Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 Is Expressed in Human Coronary Atherosclerotic Plaques: Implications for the Mode of Progression of Advanced Coronary Atherosclerosis

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Endothelial attachment is the initial step in leukocyte recruitment into developing atherosclerotic lesions.To determine whether vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) expression may play a role in inflammatory cell recruitment into human atherosclerotic lesions, immunohistochemistry was performed with a polyclonal rabbit antisera, raised against recombinant human VCAM-1, on 24 atherosclerotic coronary plaques and 11 control coronary segments with nonatherosclerotic diffuse intimal thickening from 10 patients. Immunophenotyping was performed on adjacent sections to identify smooth muscle cells, macrophages, and endothelial cells. To confirm VCAM-1-expressing cell types, double immunostaining with VCAM-1 antisera and each of the cell-specific markers and in situ hybridization were performed.All atherosclerotic plaques contained some VCAM-1, compared to 45% of control segments. VCAM-1 was found infrequently on endothelial cells at the arterial lumen in both plaques (21%) and in control segments (27%), but was prevalent in areas of neovascularization and inflammatory infiltrate in the base of plaques. Double immunostaining and in situ hybridization confirmed that most VCAM-1 was expressed by subsets of plaque smooth muscle cells and macrophages. The results document the presence of VCAM-1 in human atherosclerosis, demonstrate VCAM-1 expression by human smooth muscle cells in vivo, and suggest that intimal neovasculature may be an important site of inflammatory cell recruitment into advanced coronary lesions. (J. Clin. Invest. 1993. 92:945-951.) Key words: immunohistochemistry. in situ hybridization. smooth muscle cell. macrophage. endothelial cell

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