Regression of flow-induced pulmonary arterial vasculopathy after flow correction in piglets

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Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension is due to partial obstruction of the pulmonary arterial bed and may resolve after pulmonary thromboendarterectomy. Persistent pulmonary hypertension, the main complication after pulmonary thromboendarterectomy, may reflect vessel alterations induced by high flow in unobstructed lung territories. The aim of this study was to determine whether correcting high flow led to reversal of the vasculopathy in piglets.


The effects of high pulmonary blood flow were investigated 5 weeks after creation of an aortopulmonary shunt (n = 10), and reversibility of vessel disease was evaluated at 1 week (n = 10) and 5 weeks after shunt closure (n = 10), compared to sham-operated animals (n = 10). Hemodynamic variables, pulmonary artery reactivity, and morphometry were recorded. We also investigated the endothelin, angiopoietin, and nitric oxide synthase pathways.


High flow increased medial thickness in distal pulmonary arteries (55.6% ± 1.2% vs 35.9% ± 0.8%; P < .0001) owing to an increase of smooth muscle cell proliferation (proliferating cell nuclear antigen labeling). The endothelium-dependent relaxation was altered (P < .05). This phenomenon was associated to an overexpression of endothelin-1, endothelin-A, angiopoietin 1, angiopoietin 2, and Tie-2 (P < .05). After 1 week of shunt closure, all overexpressed genes returned to control values, the proliferation of smooth muscle cells stopped, and smooth muscle cell apoptosis increased (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase–mediated dUTP nick end labeling), preceding the normalization of the wall thickness hypertrophy and the pulmonary artery vasoreactivity observed at 5 weeks after shunt closure.


These results demonstrate that endothelin-1 and angiopoietin pathways are involved in vasculopathy development and may be important therapeutic targets for preventing persistent pulmonary hypertension after pulmonary thromboendarterectomy.

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