Simone Post a, b , Wouter Peeters a , Els Busser a , Dennis Lamers a , Joost P.G. Sluijter a, b , Marie-José Goumans a , Roel A. de Weger a , Frans L. Moll a , Pieter A. Doevendans a , Gerard Pasterkamp a, b , Aryan Vink a
10 January 2008
Introduction: Atherosclerotic plaque microvessels are associated with plaque hemorrhage and rupture. The mechanisms underlying plaque angiogenesis are largely unknown. Angiopoietin (Ang)-1 and -2 are ligands of the endothelial receptor Tie-2. Ang-1 induces formation of stable vessels, whereas Ang-2 destabilizes the interaction between endothelial cells and their support cells. We studied the expression patterns of Ang-1 and -2 in relation to plaque microvessels. Methods and Results: Carotid endarterectomy specimens were studied (n = 100). Microvessel density (MVD) was correlated with the presence of macrophages and with a (fibro)atheromatous plaque phenotype. A negative correlation was observed between Ang-1 expression and MVD. A positive correlation was observed between the ratio of Ang-2/Ang-1 and MVD. Ang-2 expression was correlated with matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) activity. Immunohistochemical staining of Ang-1 was observed in smooth muscle cells, whereas Ang-2 was detected in endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and macrophages. Conclusions: In plaques with high MVD, the local balance between Ang-1 and Ang-2 is in favor of Ang-2. Plaque Ang-2 levels are associated with MMP-2 activity. Ang-2-induced MMP-2 activity might play a role in the development of (unstable) plaque microvessels.