Development of transplant vasculopathy in aortic allografts correlates with neointimal smooth muscle cell proliferative capacity and fibrocyte frequency

Geanina Onuta, Joris van Ark, Heleen Rienstra, Mark Walther Boer, Flip A. Klatter, Cathrien A. Bruggeman, Clark J. Zeebregts, Jan Rozing, Jan-Luuk Hillebrands*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Transplant vasculopathy consists of neointima formation in graft vasculature resulting from vascular smooth muscle cell recruitment and proliferation. Variation in the severity of vasculopathy has been demonstrated. Genetic predisposition is suggested as a putative cause of this variation, although cellular mechanisms are still unknown. Using a rat aorta transplant model we tested the hypothesis that kinetics of development of transplant vasculopathy are related to neointimal smooth muscle cell proliferative capacity and fibrocyte frequency, the latter being putative neointimal smooth muscle ancestral cells. Methods: Aortic allografts were transplanted in Lewis and Brown Norway, as well as MHC-congenic Lewis. 1N and Brown Norway. 1L recipients. Severity of transplant vasculopathy was quantified 4, 8, 12 and 24 weeks after transplantation. Host-endothelial chimerism, as a reflection of vascular injury, was determined by specific immunofluorescence. Neointimal smooth muscle cell proliferative capacity was determined in vitro and in situ. Fibrocyte frequency and phenotype were determined after in vitro culture by cell counting, immunofluorescence and in situ zymography. Results: Compared to Lewis, Brown Norway recipients developed accelerated transplant vasculopathy which is dependent on the presence of Brown Norway non-MHC-encoded determinants. Accelerated transplant vasculopathy was associated with increased levels of host-endothelial chimerism and increased neointimal smooth muscle cell proliferation, the latter being accompanied by increased endothelial and smooth muscle cell-derived neuropilin-like protein mRNA expression. Moreover, accelerated transplant vasculopathy was associated with increased frequency of circulating gelatinase-expressing CD45(+) vimentin(+) fibrocytes. Conclusion: Susceptibility for transplant vasculopathy appears to be genetically controlled and correlates with neointimal smooth muscle cell proliferative capacity and circulating fibrocyte frequency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-402
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • Aorta
  • Fibrocyte
  • Neointima
  • Rat
  • Smooth muscle cell
  • Transplantation
  • Transplant vasculopathy

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