Hypertension and aging are both recognized to increase aortic stiffness, but their interactions are not completely understood. Most previous studies have attributed increased aortic stiffness to changes in extracellular matrix proteins that alter the mechanical properties of the vascular wall. Alternatively, we hypothesized that a significant component of increased vascular stiffness in hypertension is due to changes in the mechanical and adhesive properties of vascular smooth muscle cells, and that aging would augment the contribution from vascular smooth muscle cells when compared with the extracellular matrix. Accordingly, we studied aortic stiffness in young (16-week-old) and old (64-week-old) spontaneously hypertensive rats and Wistar-Kyoto wild-type controls. Systolic and pulse pressures were significantly increased in young spontaneously hypertensive rats when compared with young Wistar-Kyoto rats, and these continued to rise in old spontaneously hypertensive rats when compared with age-matched controls. Excised aortic ring segments exhibited significantly greater elastic moduli in both young and old spontaneously hypertensive rats versus Wistar-Kyoto rats. were isolated from the thoracic aorta, and stiffness and adhesion to fibronectin were measured by atomic force microscopy. Hypertension increased both vascular smooth muscle cell stiffness and vascular smooth muscle cell adhesion, and these increases were both augmented with aging. By contrast, hypertension did not affect histological measures of aortic collagen and elastin, which were predominantly changed by aging. These findings support the concept that stiffness and adhesive properties of vascular smooth muscle cells are novel mechanisms contributing to the increased aortic stiffness occurring with hypertension superimposed on aging.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Internal Medicine
- focal adhesions
- microscopy, atomic force
- vascular stiffness