23 September 2008
There is substantial evidence indicating that the study of cytoskeletal and cytocontractile protein composition in vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) can be valuable in tracing structural changes during vascular remodeling. Recent nucleic acid and protein investigations suggest that myosin can be used as a new specific marker for the identification of SMC phenotypes in some pathological conditions affecting the vascular wall. In view of this new information, it would seem timely to review the structural bases of myosin isoform expression in the vascular smooth muscle system as well as the factors involved in its regulation. A puzzling feature has arisen in recent studies on this topic: the presence of non-muscle myosin variants in SMCs during physiological and pathological vascular remodeling. In the response to injury caused by mechanical, chemical and hormonal factors in animals, characterized by proliferation and migration of vascular SMCs from the media to the intima, there is a partial or complete recapitulation of a myosin isoform pattern pertinent to developing vascular smooth muscle tissue. Analysis of myosin isoform content in the vascular wall also demonstrates that: (1) changes in SMC composition may occur independent of medial SMC migration into intima, and (2) the presence of fetal-type SMCs in the neointima is not necessarily related to specific positional changes of medial SMCs.