A large number of pre-clinical and developmental investigations involve experimental vertebrate animals, of which mice have emerged as a favored organism. Recognition of the differences between humans and mice is essential for assessment of the relevance of animal studies to humans. The primary purpose of this study was to gauge the conservation between human and mouse vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proteins mined from an analysis of the Human Protein Atlas. Two comparison were made: a) immunohistochemistry for 16 proteins in brain, heart, esophagus, bladder, stomach, lung, kidney, and aorta enabled comparison between human and mouse of protein localization in VSMC and non-vascular SMC; and b) multi-species primary protein sequence analysis of an expanded set vascular molecules enabled comparison between VSMC sequences among vertebrate species. In total, three dimensions of diversity were uncovered. First, a significant number of factors show human/mouse differences in cellular expression; these differences occurred in both VSMC and non-vascular SMC in an organ and cell-type dependent fashion. Many markers demonstrated notable cell-to-cell and regional heterogeneity in VSMC of the aorta and non-vascular SMC of the esophagus, bladder, and stomach. Second, species specificity can arise by genetic deletions as exemplified by the human protein adipogenesis regulatory factor (ADIRF), which is not present due to a large sequence gap in mice. Third, we describe significant cross-species protein sequence divergence in selected VSMC proteins which may result in altered orthologue function. In a sample of 346 vascular molecules, 15% demonstrate incomplete vertebrate species gene conservation. Divergence of predicted human/mouse VSMC protein sequences is higher than for endothelial proteins in all species examined. In the future, each of these three cross-species differences could be neutralized using gene manipulation, resulting in improved translational potential of murine experimental models.
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