Flow-mediated vasodilation is suggested as one of the mechanisms involved in arterial expansive remodelling, which is thought to be a defence mechanism in atherogenesis. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that lumen obstructive plaque formation is associated with failure of NO (nitric oxide)-dependent vasodilation in conduit vessels. Cardiac function and aortic root flow velocities were assessed using high-resolution echocardiography and two-dimensional-guided pulsed Doppler in ApoE−/− (apolipoprotein E-deficient) mice fed a standard or high-cholesterol diet. Endothelial function in the proximal and mid-descending aortic regions was studied using a myograph technique. Flow velocity at the aortic root of cholesterol-fed ApoE−/− mice was significantly increased as a result of lumen narrowing, detected via histological analysis. NO-dependent vasodilatory responses were selectively impaired in the atherosclerosis-prone vascular regions in cholesterol-fed ApoE−/− mice. In conclusion, consumption of a high-cholesterol diet results in lumen obstructive plaque formation in ApoE−/− mice, which significantly alters aortic root haemodynamics. This phenomenon is associated with impaired NO-dependent vasodilation in vessel segments known to be prone to atherosclerosis.

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