Vascular development in early ovine gestation: Carotid smooth muscle function, phenotype, and biochemical markers

Catalina Hutanu, Blair E. Cox, Kevin DeSpain, Xiao Tie Liu, Charles R. Rosenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Vascular smooth muscle (VSM) maturation is developmentally regulated and differs between vascular beds. The maturation and contribution of VSM function to tissue blood flow and blood pressure regulation during early gestation are unknown. The carotid artery (CA) contributes to fetal cerebral blood flow regulation and well being. We studied CA VSM contractility, protein contents, and phenotype beginning in the midthird of ovine development. CAs were collected from early (88-101 day of gestation) and late (138-150 day; term = day 150) fetal (n = 14), newborn (6-8 day old; n = 7), and adult (n = 5) sheep to measure forces in endothelium-denuded rings with KCl, phenylephrine, and ANG II; changes in cellular proteins, including total and soluble protein, actin and myosin, myosin heavy chain isoforms (MHC), filamin, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen; and vascular remodeling. KCl and phenylephrine elicited age- and dose-dependent contraction responses (P < 0.001) at all ages except early fetal, which were unresponsive. In contrast, ANG II elicited dose responses only in adults, with contractility increasing greater than fivefold vs. that shown in fetal or neonatal animals (P < 0.001). Increased contractility paralleled age-dependent increases (P < 0.01) in soluble protein, actin and myosin, filamin, adult smooth muscle MHC-2 (SM2) and medial wall thickness and reciprocal decreases (P < 0.001) in nonmuscle MHC-B, proliferating cell nuclear antigen and medial cellular density. VSM nonreceptor- and receptor-mediated contractions are absent or markedly attenuated in midgestation and increase age dependently, paralleling the transition from synthetic to contractile VSM phenotype and, in the case of ANG II, paralleling the switch to the AT1 receptor. The mechanisms regulating VSM maturation and thus blood pressure and tissue perfusion in early development remain to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R323-R333
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Angiotensin II
  • Fetal development
  • Myosin heavy chain isoforms
  • Nonmuscle myosin
  • Receptor and nonreceptor function
  • Smooth muscle growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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