Virchows Archiv

, Volume 447, Issue 1, pp 74–80 | Cite as

Early atherosclerotic lesions in infancy: role of parental cigarette smoking

  • Luigi MatturriEmail author
  • Giulia Ottaviani
  • Anna Maria Lavezzi
Original Article


Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased incidence of atherosclerotic diseases. The aim of this study was to examine the progression of the preatherosclerotic lesions previously observed by us in coronary arteries of fetuses of smoker mothers and in infants with smoker parents. We examined the coronary arteries of 34 infants, aged 1–36 months, and the histological and biological [c-fos, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), and apoptosis] features of the early atherosclerotic lesions. In 17 infants (50%), at least one parent smoked, generally more than five cigarettes a day. In 18 cases (53%), we observed variable thickening of the coronary walls from preatherosclerotic lesions to juvenile atherosclerotic plaques, related to parental smoking habit. This morphological progression of the lesions was accompanied by a sequence of biological changes in the smooth muscle cells of the tunica media. We suggest that the oxidants present in the gas phase of the parental cigarette smoke pass through the endothelium and induce at first the c-fos gene activation and subsequently the PCNA positivity, that is, a proliferative process.


Coronary arteries Infancy Early atherosclerotic lesions Cigarette smoke 



smooth muscle cells


Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen


phosphate-buffered saline


TdT-mediated dUTP Nick End Labeling



This study was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (joined project of particular relevance no. 269/P/0085087 “Anatomopathologic and genetic study of the unexplained perinatal death and SIDS”).

The authors thank Mrs. Lorella Terni and Mrs. Graziella Alfonsi for their precious technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigi Matturri
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Giulia Ottaviani
    • 1
  • Anna Maria Lavezzi
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Pathology, Lino Rossi Research Center for the Study and Prevention of Unexpected Perinatal Death (of term fetus—stillbirth- and neonatal) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)University of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Institute of PathologyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

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