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Subset of cells immunopositive for neurokinin-1 receptor identified as arterial interstitial cells of Cajal in human large arteries


In the adventitia of large arteries, dendritic cells are located between nerve fibers, some of which contain substance P. The aim of the present study was to examine whether neurokinin 1 receptor (NK-1R) was expressed by dendritic cells in the arterial wall. Parallel sections of aortic and carotid artery segments were immunostained with anti-NK-1R and cell-type-specific antibodies. Dendritic cells in the arterial wall expressed NK-1R, albeit at a low level. Other cells, which intensely expressed NK-1R, were located along the border between the media and adventitia. They did not co-express any dendritic cell markers, including fascin, CD1a, S100, or Lag-antigen, and were negative for CD68, CD3, and mast cell tryptase. These NK-1R+ cells were laser-capture microdissected and studied by means of electron-microscopic analysis. The microdissected cells were in direct contact with nerve endings, and their ultrastructure was typical of the interstitial cells of Cajal present in the gastrointestinal tract. Further systematic electron-microscopic analysis revealed that the cells displaying the features typical of interstitial cells of Cajal were a basic element of the human arterial wall architectonics. Arterial interstitial cells of Cajal were negative for c-kit but they expressed vasoactive intestinal peptide receptor 1 (VIPR1). Destructive alterations of contacts between arterial interstitial cells of Cajal and nerve endings were observed in arterial segments with atherosclerotic lesions. The functional significance of the arterial interstitial cells of Cajal and their possible involvement in atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases need clarification.

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Correspondence to Yuri V. Bobryshev.

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This work was supported by the St Vincent’s Clinic Foundation, Sydney, Australia.

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Bobryshev, Y.V. Subset of cells immunopositive for neurokinin-1 receptor identified as arterial interstitial cells of Cajal in human large arteries. Cell Tissue Res 321, 45–55 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441-004-1061-9

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  • Dendritic cells
  • Interstitial cells of Cajal
  • Innervation
  • Arteries
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Human