Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) Rescues the Contractile Smooth Muscle Cell Phenotype in Popliteal Artery Aneurysm Disease
Popliteal artery aneurysm (PAA) is the most frequent peripheral aneurysm, primarily seen in male smokers with a prevalence below 1%. This exploratory study aims to shed light on cellular mechanisms involved in PAA progression. Sixteen human PAA and eight non-aneurysmatic popliteal artery samples, partially from the same patients, were analyzed by immunohistochemistry, fluorescence imaging, Affymetrix mRNA expression profiling, qPCR and OLink proteomics, and compared to atherosclerotic ( n = 6) and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) tissue ( n = 19). Additionally, primary cell culture of PAA-derived vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) was established for modulation and growth analysis. Compared to non-aneurysmatic popliteal arteries, VSMCs lose the contractile phenotype and the cell proliferation rate increases significantly in PAA. Array analysis identified APOE higher expressed in PAA samples, co-localizing with VSMCs. APOE stimulation of primary human PAA VSMCs significantly reduced cell proliferation. Accordingly, contractile VSMC markers were significantly upregulated. A single case of osseous mechanically induced PAA with a non-diseased VSMC profile emphasizes these findings. Carefully concluded, PAA pathogenesis shows similar features to AAA, yet the mechanisms involved might differ. APOE is specifically higher expressed in PAA tissue and could be involved in VSMC phenotype rescue.