Differential cell-matrix mechanoadaptations and inflammation drive regional propensities to aortic fibrosis, aneurysm or dissection in hypertension

M. R. Bersi, R. Khosravi, A. J. Wujciak, D. G. Harrison, J. D. Humphrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


The embryonic lineage of intramural cells, microstructural organization of the extracellular matrix, local luminal and wall geometry, and haemodynamic loads vary along the length of the aorta. Yet, it remains unclear why certain diseases manifest differentially along the aorta. Toward this end, myriad animal models provide insight into diverse disease conditions-including fibrosis, aneurysm and dissection-but inherent differences across models impede general interpretations. We examined region-specific cellular, matrix, and biomechanical changes in a single experimental model of hypertension and atherosclerosis, which commonly coexist. Our findings suggest that (i) intramural cells within the ascending aorta are unable to maintain the intrinsic material stiffness of the wall, which ultimately drives aneurysmal dilatation, (ii) a mechanical stress-initiated, inflammation-driven remodelling within the descending aorta results in excessive fibrosis, and (iii) a transient loss of adventitial collagen within the suprarenal aorta contributes to dissection propensity. Smooth muscle contractility helps to control wall stress in the infrarenal aorta, which maintains mechanical properties near homeostatic levels despite elevated blood pressure. This early mechanoadaptation of the infrarenal aorta does not preclude subsequent acceleration of neointimal formation, however. Because region-specific conditions may be interdependent, as, for example, diffuse central arterial stiffening can increase cyclic haemodynamic loads on an aneurysm that is developing proximally, there is a clear need for more systematic assessments of aortic disease progression, not simply a singular focus on a particular region or condition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170327
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number136
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Angiotensin II
  • Aortic stiffness
  • Inflammatory cells
  • Smooth muscle
  • Stress


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