Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is associated with atherosclerosis and transplant vascular sclerosis. The aim of this study was to explore the hypothesis that active CMV infection in the vessel wall could be associated with abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). We examined the prevalence of CMV in AAA specimens from 22 patients undergoing surgery and, in five cases, characterized the function of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) from the aneurysm in vitro. Twenty-one (95%) of the 22 AAA specimens were CMV positive by a polymerase chain reaction assay, in situ hybridization, or a highly sensitive immunohistochemical staining technique. No positive cells were found in aortas from three CMV-seronegative organ donor cadavers. CMV immediate-early and late antigens were expressed in SMCs in the lesions and were associated with 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) expression. CMV-positive intimal SMCs migrated 6.6 +/- 1.5 times more efficiently than CMV-negative medial SMCs (p < 0.05). In vitro CMV infection of medial SMCs resulted in a 3.2 +/- 1.2 times increase in migration (p < 0.05). The intimal migration was significantly inhibited by antibodies against basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF; p < 0.05) in a dose-dependent fashion. Antibodies against platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-AB, insulin-like growth factor 1, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), RANTES, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1), macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1alpha, or interleukin-1beta did not significantly affect intimal SMC migration. However, intimal and medial SMCs secreted similar amounts of bFGF, MCP-1, MIP-1alpha, RANTES, PDGF-AB, PDGF-BB, epidermal growth factor, and VEGF. CMV infection in vitro of intimal and medial cells did not result in significant changes of bFGF or MCP-1 secretion. Since CMV infection can affect several functional parameters in SMCs, including several key factors in infected SMCs, our findings provide support for the hypothesis that CMV contributes to the pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysm.
2009. Vol. 87, no 4, 347-356 p.