Differential Stiffening between the Abdominal and Thoracic Aorta: Effect of Salt Loading in Stroke-Prone Hypertensive Rats

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Central artery stiffening is recognized as a cardiovascular risk. The effects of hypertension and aging have been shown in human and animal models but the effect of salt is still controversial. We studied the effect of a high-salt diet on aortic stiffness in salt-sensitive spontaneously hypersensitive stroke-prone rats (SHRSP). Distensibility, distension, and β-stiffness were measured at thoracic and abdominal aortic sites in the same rats, using echotracking recording of the aortic diameter coupled with blood pressure (BP), in SHRSP-salt (5% salted diet, 5 weeks), SHRSP, and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. Hemodynamic parameters were measured at BP matched to that of WKY. Histological staining and immunohistochemistry were used for structural analysis. Hemodynamic isobaric parameters in SHRSP did not differ from WKY and only those from the abdominal aorta of SHRSP-salt presented decreased distensibility and increased stiffness compared with WKY and SHRSP. The abdominal and thoracic aortas presented similar thickening, increased fibrosis, and remodeling with no change in collagen content. SHRSP-salt presented a specific increased elastin disarray at the abdominal aorta level but a decrease in elastin content in the thoracic aorta. This study demonstrates the pro-stiffening effect of salt in addition to hypertension; it shows that only the abdominal aorta presents a specific pressure-independent stiffening, in which elastin disarray is likely a key mechanism.

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