Virchows Archiv A

, Volume 350, Issue 3, pp 183–204 | Cite as

Degeneration of arterial smooth muscle cells: Ultrastructural study of smooth muscle cell death in control and cholesterol-fed animals

  • H. Imai
  • S. K. Lee
  • S. J. Pastori
  • W. A. Thomas


Bifurcations of common carotid arteries of rhesus monkeys and trifurcations of terminal abdominal aortas of Yorkshire swine were examined by electron microscopy for dead and dying smooth muscle cells (SMC). Ultrastructural criteria are proposed for classifying SMC in arterial walls as dead or dying based on in vitro data reported by others. We were not able to make clear distinction between the dead and dying SMC and the term “generative forms” is used to include both. Degenerative forms were classified into two categories: rarefied and mummified. The frequency of apparent dead and dying SMC averaged 1.9% in carotid bifurcations of control monkeys. Four months of cholesterol feeding elevated the frequency to 4.2%. The frequency of degenerative forms in aortic trifurcations of control swine averaged 1.2%, and 3 days' cholesterol feeding elevated the value to 3.2%. Thus one of the early effects of oral administration of cholesterol appears to be injury to arterial SMC resulting in aggravation of cell death. Functional damage to the cell membranes is viewed as the most likely primary event that induces the sequence of morphologic changes associated with cell death.


Cholesterol Smooth Muscle Cell Rhesus Monkey Arterial Wall Abdominal Aorta 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Imai
    • 1
  • S. K. Lee
    • 1
  • S. J. Pastori
    • 1
  • W. A. Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PathologyAlbany Medical CollegeAlbany

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