Mechanisms involved in extracellular matrix remodeling and arterial stiffness induced by hyaluronan accumulation.

PMID 26671518


Hyperglycemia induces hyaluronan (HA) accumulation in the vasculature. Excessive accumulation of HA around the vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) results in increased aortic stiffness and strength and accelerated atherosclerosis in ApoE(-)/(-) mice. We hypothesized that HA accumulation primes the vasculature for atherosclerosis by crosslinking and reorganizing the extracellular matrix (ECM) and by pushing VSMC differentiation towards a less mature phenotype. Aortas from HAS-2 transgenic (Tg) mice and wild type mice were used for all experiments. Biomechanics and cross-sectional area measurements were performed before and after HA digestion. The vessel and ECM composition was examined by immunoblotting and electron microscopy. Primary VSMC cultures were examined by qPCR and thymidine incorporation. Tg mice aorta cross-sectional area was increased before (14%, p = 0.0148), but not after HA digestion (p = 0.3437). The increase in vessel stiffness (32%, p = 0.0217) and strength (31%, p = 0.0043) in the Tg aorta persisted after HA digestion. Crosslinking of HA by heavy chains from Inter-α-Inhibitor was increased (175%, p = 0.0006). The Tg VSMCs have the appearance of a synthetic phenotype supported by a 40% decrease in α-smooth muscle actin isoform X1 (p = 0.0296) and an increase in proliferation (63%, p = 0.0048) and osteoprotegerin production (133%, p = 0.0010) in cultured Tg VSMCs. Our results show that induced HA accumulation is followed by increased HA crosslinking and create a shift in VSMC phenotype and proliferation. These findings may provide a mechanism for how hyperglycemia through HA accumulation prime the vascular wall for cholesterol and leucocyte accumulation and development of atherosclerosis.