Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis vol:4 issue:3 pages:664-670
BACKGROUND: Apoptosis of vascular cells is considered to be a major determinant of atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability and potential rupture. Plasmin can be generated in atherosclerotic plaques and recent in vitro data suggest that plasminogen activation may trigger vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) apoptosis. AIM: To determine whether plasminogen activation may induce aortic VSMC apoptosis ex vivo and in vivo. METHODS AND RESULTS: Mice with single or combined deficiencies of apolipoprotein E (ApoE) and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) were used. Ex vivo incubation with plasminogen of isolated aortic tunica media from PAI-1-deficient mice induced plasminogen activation and VSMC apoptosis, which was inhibited by alpha2-antiplasmin. In vivo, levels of plasmin, active caspase 3 and VSMC apoptotic index were significantly higher in atherosclerotic aortas from mice with combined ApoE and PAI-1 deficiencies than in those from littermates with single ApoE deficiency. A parallel decrease in VSMC density was observed. CONCLUSIONS: These data strongly suggest that plasminogen activation may contribute to VSMC apoptosis in atherosclerotic plaques.