28 December 2006
Understanding vascular pathologies requires insight in the structure and function, and, hence, an imaging technique combining subcellular resolution, large penetration depth, and optical sectioning. We evaluated the applicability of two-photon laser-scanning microscopy (TPLSM) in large elastic and small muscular arteries under physiological conditions. Elastic (carotid) and muscular (uterine, mesenteric) arteries of C57BL/6 mice were mounted in a perfusion chamber. TPLSM was used to assess the viability of arteries and to visualize the structural components elastin, collagen, nuclei, and endothelial glycocalyx (EG). Functionality was determined using diameter changes in response to noradrenaline and acetylcholine. Viability and functionality were maintained up to 4 h, enabling the assessment of structure-function relationships. Structural vessel wall components differed between elastic and muscular arteries: size (1.3 vs. 2.1 µm) and density (0.045 vs. 0.57 µm<sup>–2</sup>) of internal elastic lamina fenestrae, smooth muscle cell density (3.50 vs. 1.53 µm<sup>–3</sup>), number of elastic laminae (3 vs. 2), and adventitial collagen structure (tortuous vs. straight). EG in elastic arteries was 4.5 µm thick, covering 66% of the endothelial surface. TPLSM enables visualization and quantification of subcellular structures in vital and functional elastic and muscular murine arteries, allowing unraveling of structure-function relationships in healthy and diseased arteries.