Transient disruptions of aortic endothelial cell plasma membranes

Q. C. Yu, Paul L. McNeil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Cells of gut, skin, and muscle frequently suffer transient survivable plasma membrane disruptions ("wounds") under physiological conditions, but it is not known whether endothelial cells of the aorta, which are constantly exposed to hemodynamically generated mechanical forces, similarly are injured in vivo. We have used serum albumin as a molecular probe for identifying endothelial cells of the rat aorta that incurred and survived transient plasma membrane wounds in vivo. Such wounded endothelial cells were in fact observed in the aortas of all rats examined. However, the percentage of wounded cells in the total aortic endothelial population varied remarkably between individuals ranging from 1.4% to 17.9% with a mean of 6.5% (± 4.6% SD). Wounded endothelial cells were heterogeneously distributed, being found in distinct clusters often in the shape of streaks aligned with the long axis of the vessel, or in the shape of partial or complete rims surrounding bifurcation openings, such as the ostia of the intercostal arteries. Physical exercise (running) did not increase the frequency of aortic endothelial cell membrane wounding nor did spontaneous hypertension. Surprisingly, 80% of mitotic endothelial cell figures were identified as wounded. This article identified a previously unrecognized form of endothelial cell injury, survivable disruptions of the plasma membrane, and shows that injury to the endothelial cells of the normal aorta is far more commonplace than previously suspected. Plasma membrane wounding of endothelial cells could be linked to the initiation of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1360
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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