Osteopontin is synthesized by macrophage, smooth muscle, and endothelial cells in primary and restenotic human coronary atherosclerotic plaques.
How an atherosclerotic plaque evolves from minimal diffuse intimal hyperplasia to a critical lesion is not well understood. Cellular proliferation is a relatively infrequent and modest event in both primary and restenotic coronary atherectomy specimens, leading us to believe that other processes, such as the formation of extracellular matrix, cell migration, neovascularization, and calcification might be more important for lesion formation. The investigation of proteins that are overexpressed in plaque compared with the normal vessel wall may provide clues that will help determine which of these processes are key to lesion pathogenesis. One such molecule, osteopontin (OPN), is an arginine-glycine-aspartate-containing acidic phosphoprotein recently shown to be a novel component of human atherosclerotic plaques and selectively expressed in the rat neointima following balloon angioplasty. Using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical methods, we demonstrate that in addition to macrophages, smooth muscle and endothelial cells synthesize OPN mRNA and protein in human coronary atherosclerotic plaque specimens obtained by directional atherectomy. In contrast, OPN mRNA and protein were not detected in nondiseased vessel walls. Furthermore, extracellular OPN protein collocalized with sites of early calcification in the plaque that were identified with a sensitive modification of the von Kossa staining technique. These findings, combined with studies showing that OPN has adhesive, chemotactic, and calcium-binding properties, suggest that OPN may contribute to cellular accumulations and dystrophic calcification in atherosclerotic plaques.
- Copyright © 1994 by American Heart Association