Changes in the organization of the smooth muscle cells in rat vein grafts

S. Q. Liu*, Y. C. Fung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Mechanical tensile stress in vein grafts increases suddenly under the influence of arterial blood pressure. In this study, we examined the influence of increased tensile stress on the organization of the smooth muscle cells (SMCs) in the neointima and media of the rat vein grafts. An autogenous jugular vein was grafted into the abdominal aorta of the rat, and changes in the organization of the vein graft SMCs were studied by observing the distribution of SMC actin filaments and nuclei at 3 min and 1, 5, 10, and 30 days after surgery. In a normal jugular vein, the average wall circumferential tensile stress was ∼3 kPa at an internal pressure of 3 mm Hg. The SMCs, that contained long, slender actin filamentous bundles, were oriented mainly in the circumferential direction of the vessel, and constituted a 2- to 3-cell-thick medial layer underneath the endothelium. In a vein graft, the wall circumferential tensile stress suddenly increased by ∼140 times compared with the control level. In response to this suddenly increased stress, the SMC layer was stretched into a structure with scattered pores and disrupted SMC actin filamentous bundles within 3 min. This initial change was followed by a rapid reduction in the density of the SMC nuclei and actin filaments within 1 day and progressive SMC proliferation, that was associated with medial thickening and a change in the SMC orientation from 5 to 30 days. Further studies showed that a local inflation of normal jugular veins to 120 mm Hg for 3 min induced a similar change as found in the vein grafts, whereas the organization of the SMCs was not significantly changed in veinvein grafts, that did not experience a change in tensile stress. These results suggested that increased tensile stress contributed to the initial damage of the SMCs and played a role in the regulation of medial SMC remodeling in vein grafts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-95
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Actin filaments
  • Cell nuclei
  • Vascular remodeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering

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