Background: Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is an endothelium-derived vasoactive peptide with mitogenic properties. In vitro, vascular release of ET-1 is increased in response to mechanical stress. The goal of the present study was to examine whether ET-1 is released from human atherosclerotic coronary arteries in vivo in response to mechanical pressure and stretch and to characterize immunoreactivity for ET-1 and its precursor, big ET-1, within the atheromatous plaque. Methods and Results: Circulating ET-1 levels were measured in 20 patients before and after coronary angioplasty for stable angina at three sampling sites: the femoral artery and the coronary artery segments proximal and distal to the lesion dilated. In addition, atheromatous tissue obtained from 20 patients undergoing directional coronary atherectomy for stable angina were analyzed for immunoreactivity for ET-1 and big ET-1. In patients undergoing angioplasty. ET-1 levels in the distal coronary artery increased after balloon dilatation (8.4±0.9 to 16.4±2 pg/mL, P<.05); proximal coronary artery and systemic ET-1 levels were unchanged. The degree of mechanical stress applied (product of duration and pressure of balloon inflation) correlated with the change in distal coronary artery ET-1 levels (r=.71, P<.01). Immunoreactivity for big ET-1 and ET-1 was ubiquitous in the extracellular space and the intracellular compartment (macrophages, myointimal cells, myofibroblasts, and endothelial cells) of human coronary atheromatous tissue. Conclusions: Big ET-1 and ET-1 immunoreactivity is ubiquitous within the intracellular and extracellular compartments of coronary atherosclerotic tissue. ET-1 is released from these sites in response to mechanical stress. These findings support a role for endothelins in the evolution and progression of coronary atherosclerosis in humans.
- coronary circulation