Identification of macrophages in intimal thickening of rat carotid arteries by cytochemical localization of purine nucleoside phosphorylase.
Complete desquamation of the endothelium of the rat carotid artery by balloon catheter stripping resulted within 2 weeks in the formation of a large intimal thickening. After an enzyme cytochemical technique was applied to localize cytosolic purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP), light microscopical evaluation indicated that this intimal thickening in normocholesterolemic rats was composed of 5.8% to 11.8% (mean 8.8%) PNP-positive cells. At the electron microscopic level, all these PNP-positive cells were identified as macrophages by the absence of a basement membrane and plasmalemmal vesicles and by the occurrence of specific intracytoplasmic granules. The nearly nonreactive intimal cells were classified as modified smooth muscle cells. Additional evidence of the macrophage nature of the PNP-stained intimal cells was obtained by differential immunogold labeling of these cells with a monoclonal antibody against rat macrophages. Moreover, in hypercholesterolemic rats, only the cells stained for PNP transformed into foam cells (between 8.5% and 11.4% of all nucleated intimal cells; mean 9.6%). This study shows that PNP cytochemistry discriminates macrophages from modified smooth muscle cells in the rat carotid intimal thickening. It further suggests that the intimal thickening in normocholesterolemic rats originates not only from migration and proliferation of smooth muscle cells, but also from a considerable number of leukocyte-derived macrophages. Whether the latter cells are actively involved in the establishment of the intimal thickening as has been suggested in dietary hypercholesterolemia, remains to be verified.
- Copyright © 1988 by American Heart Association