Polymorphonuclear leukocyte-myocyte interaction: An early event in collar-induced rabbit carotid intimal thickening

Donetti Elena, Baetta Roberta, Comparato Carmen, Altana Caterina, Sartore Saverio, Paoletti Rodolfo, Castano Paolo, Gabbiani Giulio, Corsini Alberto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The importance of mononuclear leukocyte (MO) adhesion to dysfunctional endothelium and migration to the subendothelial space in the early phases of atherogenesis is well established. Few studies have addressed the relevance of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) in the context of evolving lesions, and nothing is known about PMN interaction with vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs). In this study, we investigated leukocyte/SMC interactions in a model of rabbit carotid injury induced by placement of a silastic collar. This procedure leads to the development of intimal thickening characterized by SMC accumulation preceded by an abundant leukocyte infiltration. By transmission electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry, we demonstrated the occurrence of PMN infiltration starting at 6 h and ceasing within 72 h after collar placement. A previously unknown extensive interaction between medial myocytes and PMNs was detected, referring to emperipolesis, an active phenomenon of cells engulfing other cells in a process other than phagocytosis. PMNs, but not MOs, were internalized by SMCs, which showed ultrastructural features intermediate between the true contractile and the fully synthetic phenotype without exhibiting any sign of injury. Emperipolesis preceded any detectable cell proliferation in the vessel wall and disappeared within 72 h, following the kinetic of PMN infiltration in the vessel wall. In summary, our findings show the occurrence of an active and selective interaction between PMNs and SMCs via emperipolesis during the early phases of intimal thickening after perivascular collaring. However, the overall etiology of the phenomena described in the present study and their pathophysiological significance should be further investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Atherogenesis
  • Collar
  • Emperipolesis
  • Inflammation
  • Neutrophils
  • Smooth muscle cell
  • Transmission electron microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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