Endothelin-B receptors mediate intimal hyperplasia in an organ culture of human saphenous vein

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Although a number of pharmacologic agents have been shown to reduce intimal hyperplasia in animal models of restenosis, to date no systemic agent has conclusively been shown to be effective in humans. Recently, considerable attention has been directed towards endothelin (ET), a potent vasoconstrictor and a powerful mitogen for vascular smooth muscle cells, as a mediator of intimal hyperplasia. Endothelin-1 has been shown to be mitogenic for human saphenous vein smooth muscle cells, and expression also is elevated in human vein graft stenosis. The aim of this study was the investigation of whether ET receptor antagonists can attenuate neointima formation in a laboratory model of vein graft intimal hyperplasia and the determination of whether the effects are mediated by a specific ET receptor subtype.


We used an organ culture of human saphenous vein, a well-validated model of vein graft intimal hyperplasia. Paired segments of human long saphenous vein were cultured with and without the following antagonists: bosentan, a nonselective ET receptor antagonist; BQ 123, a specific endothelin-A antagonist; or BQ 788, a specific endothelin-B (ETB) antagonist. After 14 days in the culture, the segments were fixed and processed and the sections were immunostained to facilitate the measurements of neointimal thickness with a computerized image analysis system.


The nonselective antagonist bosentan and the ETB selective antagonist BQ 788 significantly reduced neointima formation by 70% (P = .001) and 50% (P = .03), respectively, but the ETA antagonist BQ 123 had no significant effect on the reduction of neointima formation (P = 1.0).


The results of this study imply an important role for ET as a mediator of human vein graft intimal hyperplasia and imply further that a specific ETB antagonist may have a therapeutic potential for the prevention of vein graft stenosis.

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