Inflammation appears to have a major role in the development of atherosclerosis. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is involved in the inflammatory response via the generation of prostanoids that, in turn, are involved in the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). This study aimed to investigate atherosclerosis in human aortas for in situ tissue distribution of COX-2, MMPs including MMP-9 and membrane type 1 MMP (MT1-MMP), and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-2 (TIMP-2). Immunohistochemical studies were performed on atherosclerotic lesions of aortas from patients with aortic aneurysms (n = 4) and dissections (n = 3) by using antibodies to COX-2, MMP-9, MT1-MMP, and TIMP-2. Control tissues were obtained from traumatically dissected aortas (n = 2). All specimens from diseased aortas had atherosclerotic lesions ranging from fatty streak to atheromatous plaques. In control, there was no expression of COX-2, MMP-9, and MT1-MMP in all aortic layers. Immunoreactivity for COX-2 was predominantly noted in macrophages and smooth muscle cells (SMCs) of the intima including atherosclerotic plaque itself and the medial layer of the plaque base, as well as in SMCs and endothelial lining of the vasa vasorum in the adventitia. Immunoreactivity for MMP-9 and MT1-MMP was found in the same distribution as that of COX-2. Additionally, the expression of TIMP-2 increased in relation to MMP-9 expression. This study demonstrates that COX-2 is coexpressed with MMP-9 and MT1-MMP, not only by macrophages and SMCs in atherosclerotic lesions, but also in endothelial lining of the vasa vasorum of human aortas. Thus, vascular inflammatory reactions may influence extracellular matrix remodeling by coactivation of MMPs in the development of atherosclerosis and, in turn, the progression of disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes