Graft permeabilization facilitates gene therapy of transplant arteriosclerosis in a rabbit model

Mark D. Rekhter, Nikhil Shah, Robert D. Simari, Carolyn Work, Jong Seung Kim, Gary J. Nabel, Elizabeth G. Nabel, David Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background - Smooth muscle cell (SMC) replication plays a central role in the pathogenesis of transplant arteriosclerosis. One strategy to eliminate dividing cells is to express a herpesvirus thymidine kinase (tk) gene that phosphorylates the nucleoside analogue ganciclovir into a toxic form leading to cell killing. However, medial SMCs are resistant to gene transfer unless the artery undergoes deendothelialization. We hypothesized that manipulations that increase the 'porosity' of the artery can make SMCs prone to gene transfer without denudation. Methods and Results - In organ culture of rabbit aorta, longitudinal stretch and supraphysiological pressure applied for 3 hours during incubation with adenoviral vector facilitated gene transfer into medial SMCs without denudation. Of the SMCs, 10.2±3.8% expressed a reporter gene of human placental alkaline phosphatase (hpAP), whereas SMCs in control arteries did not express hpAP. To evaluate the feasibility of transgene expression in arterial grafts, we performed such permeabilization-assisted reporter gene transfer into aortas of donor Dutch Belted rabbits and transplanted them into carotid arteries of recipient New Zealand White rabbits. Unstretched transfected grafts were used as a control. SMCs expressed hpAP (7.3±2.4% of cells in 2 days and 4.2±1.9% in 2 weeks) in stretched grafts only. In the next series of experiments, we transfected stretched grafts with ADV-tk and combined transplantation with systemic administration of ganciclovir. Stretched ADV-hpAP grafts were used as a control. In 2 weeks, the formation of intimal thickening in tk-expressing grafts was significantly reduced (P<0.01) because of a decrease in proliferating SMCs. Conclusions - Manipulations within target tissues can enhance the efficiency of gene transfer into SMCs. Although mechanical permeabilization is clinically problematic, in principle, targeting SMC replication may provide a genetic approach to the treatment of transplant arteriosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1335-1341
Number of pages7
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 29 1998


  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Genes
  • Muscle, smooth
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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