Elevated oxidative stress in the aortic media of patients with bicuspid aortic valve

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Congenital bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is distinctly associated with the development of ascending aortopathy in adulthood, portending risk of both ascending aortic aneurysm and dissection. Our previous work implicated deficiency in oxidative stress response as a mediator of the BAV-associated aortopathy. We hypothesize that reactive oxygen species generation invokes elevated local oxidative tissue damage in ascending aorta of patients with BAV.


Ascending aortic specimens were obtained from patients undergoing elective aortic replacement and/or aortic valve replacement and during heart transplant operations. Levels of superoxide anion were measured via high-pressure liquid chromatography–based detection of 2-hydroxyethidium in aortic specimens. Lipid peroxidation and enzymatic activity of superoxide dismutase and peroxidase were quantified in aortic specimens.


Superoxide anion production was elevated in aortic specimens from patients with nonaneurysmal BAV (n = 59) compared with specimens from patients with the morphologically normal tricuspid aortic valve (TAV, n = 38). Total superoxide dismutase activity was similar among aortic specimens from patients with TAV versus BAV (n = 27 and 26, respectively), whereas peroxidase activity was increased in aortic specimens from patients with BAV compared with specimens from patients with TAV (n = 14 for both groups). Lipid peroxidation was elevated in aortic specimens from BAV patients compared with TAV patients (n = 14 and 11, respectively).


Superoxide anion accumulation and increased lipid peroxidation demonstrate that, despite increased peroxidase activity, the ascending aortopathy of patients with BAV involves oxidative stress. In addition, the absence of increased superoxide dismutase activity in BAV specimens indicates a deficiency in antioxidant defense. This suggests that the characteristic smooth muscle cell loss observed in BAV aortopathy may be a consequence of superoxide-mediated cell damage.

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