Transplant atherosclerosis: Role of phenotypic modulation of vascular smooth muscle by nitric oxide

Ruth E. Bundy, Nandor Marczin, Emma F. Birks, Adrian H. Chester, Magdi H. Yacoub

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Occlusive accelerated atherosclerosis of coronary grafts is the predominant factor that limits longevity of heart transplant recipients. This form of vascular disease affects both the large epicardial and the smaller intramyocardial vessels, leading to characteristic clinical presentation that necessitates the use of sophisticated techniques for their accurate detection. Accelerated atherosclerosis after transplantation is a multifactorial disease with many events contributing to its progression. The initial vascular injury associated with ischemia-reperfusion appears to aggravate preexisting conditions in the donor vasculature in addition to activation of new immunological and nonimmunological mechanisms. Throughout these events, the endothelium remains a primary target of cell- and humoral- mediated injury. Changes in the vascular intima leads to alterations in vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) physiology, resulting in VSMC phenotypic modulation with the orchestration of a broad spectrum of growth and inflammatory reactions, which might be a healing response to vascular injury. Endogenous nitric oxide (NO) pathways regulate a multiplicity of cellular mechanisms that play a major role in determining the structure and function of the vessel wall during normal conditions and during remodeling associated with accelerated atherosclerosis. Recently identified signaling pathways, including mitogen-activated protein kinase, cGMP-dependent protein kinase, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, and transcriptional events in which nuclear factor kappa B and activator protein 1 take part, can be associated with NO modulation of cell cycle perturbations and phenotypic alteration of VSMC during accelerated atherosclerosis. This article reviews recent progress covering the aforementioned matters. We start by summarizing the clincal aspects and pathogenesis of accelerated atherosclerosis associated with transplantation, including clinical presentation and detection. This summary is followed by a discussion of the multiple factors of the disease process, including immunological and nonimmunolgical contributions. The next section focuses on cellular responses of the VSMCs relevant to lesion formation, with special emphasis on classical and recent paradigms of phenotypic modulation of these cells. To examine the influence of NO on VSMC phenotypic modulation and consequent lesion development, we briefly overview characteristics of NO production in the normal coronary vascular bed and the changes in endogenous NO release and activity during atherosclerosis. This overview is followed by a section covering molecular mechanisms whereby NO regulates a range of signaling pathways, transcriptional events underlying cell cycle perturbation, and phenotypic alteration of VSMC in accelerated atherosclerosis. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalVascular Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
These studies were partly supported by British Heart Foundation Project Grant PG/97200 (R. Bundy and N. Marczin) and Országos Tudományos Kutatási Alap of Hungary (N. Marczin). M. Yacoub is British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery.


  • Coronary artery disease
  • Signal transduction
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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