Role of endothelial cells in the proliferative response of cultured pulmonary vascular smooth muscle cells to reduced oxygen tension

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The development of pulmonary hypertension in a wide variety of human disease states and experimental animal models characterized by chronic alveolar hypoxia is mediated by two pathologic vascular processes, a) vasoconstriction and b) vasoconstruction (structural remodeling). The anatomic changes seen within the pulmonary circulation include a) increased deposition of collagen and elastin in the adventitial layer and b) aberrant pulmonary vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and maturation in the medial segments. Despite the demonstrated ability of pharmacologic manipulation in the experimental animal to ameliorate both the structural and hemodynamic changes, the actual etiologic mechanisms are only beginning to be explored. Using the cell culture technique of co-cultivation, we have investigated the potential role of bovine pulmonary arterial endothelial cell-derived factors in mediating abnormal bovine smooth muscle cell growth under conditions of reduced oxygen tension. We have demonstrated that these cultured endothelial cells exposed in vitro to reduced levels of atmospheric oxygen concentrations of 5.0% and 2.5% O2 for durations of 24 to 72 h produce and secrete soluble growth factor(s) which stimulate smooth muscle cell proliferation when compared to cells maintained under standard tissue culture oxygen conditions of 95% room air. This growth-stimulatory effect required the concomitant presence of serum factors (0.5% fetal bovine serum), was inhibited by heparin, was distinct from platelet-derived growth factor, and seemed to have a molecular weight greater than 14 000 Da. We conclude that reduced levels of oxygen tension in vitro can selectively induce pulmonary arterial endothelial cells to release mitogen(s) which can stimulate vascular smooth muscle replication. Furthermore, we speculate that this in vitro finding may be of importance as an etiologic mechanism to explain the accelerated smooth muscle cell growth characteristic of hypoxic pulmonary arteriopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-409
Number of pages7
JournalIn Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology - Animal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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