Ascending aortic aneurysm associated with bicuspid and tricuspid aortic valve: involvement and clinical relevance of smooth muscle cell apoptosis and expression of cell death-initiating proteins

Schmid, Franz-Xaver; Bielenberg, Katrin; Schneider, Anette; Haussler, Andreas; Keyser, Andreas; Birnbaum, Dietrich
April 2003
European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery;Apr2003, Vol. 23 Issue 4, p537
Academic Journal
Objective: There is relationship between a dilated ascending aorta and a bicuspid aortic valve. Controversy exists concerning techniques available for surgical restoration of the functional and anatomical integrity of the aortic root. The present study was undertaken to define the histopathologic and molecular biologic condition of ascending aortic aneurysms associated with bicuspid (BAV) or tricuspid aortic valve (TAV) and the relationship to valve sparing or pulmonary autograft procedures. Methods: Aortic aneurysm wall specimens from 20 patients (10 BAV; 10 TAV) undergoing elective repair and normal aortic tissues from organ donors (n=5) were analysed for patterns of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and infiltrating leukocytes (immunohistochemistry), apoptosis (in situ end-labelling of DNA-fragments (TUNEL)), and expression of the death-promoting proteins perforin, Fas, and FasLigand (Immunoblotting). Results: Segments from aneurysms exhibited a distinct pattern of medial destruction, elastic fragmentation, and disorientation with rarefication of SMCs. BAV wall segments contained more cells bearing markers of apoptosis than TAV specimens whereas normal aorta displayed only few apoptotic cells (P<0.05). TUNEL showed higher levels of DNA fragmentation in BAV than in TAV, and double immunostaining identified SMCs as the principal cell type displaying fragmented DNA. Immunohistochemistry confirmed expression of death-promoting mediators by infiltrating lymphocytes, and Western blotting documented their presence in BAV and TAV aneurysmal tissue, with the greatest increases seen in specimens from aneurysms associated with BAV. Conclusions: There is evidence for a molecular link between SMC apoptosis initiated by infiltration and local signal expression of immune cells and weakening of the aortic wall being more prevalent in patients with BAV. Our findings may suggest a mechanism responsible for aneurysm formation of the aorta and aortic dilatation after autograft root or sinus remodelling procedures.


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