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Biochemistry - Hematology - Neuroscience

Vascular Endothelial Dysfunction in ß-Thalassemia Occurs Despite Increased eNOS Expression and Preserved Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Reactivity to NO
Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Author: Ekatherina Stoyanova et al.

by Ekatherina Stoyanova, Marie Trudel, Hady Felfly, Wafaa Lemsaddek, Damien Garcia, Guy Cloutier


The hereditary ß-thalassemia major condition requires regular lifelong blood transfusions. Transfusion-related iron overloading has been associated with the onset of cardiovascular complications, including cardiac dysfunction and vascular anomalies. By using an untransfused murine model of ß-thalassemia major, we tested the hypothesis that vascular endothelial dysfunction, alterations of arterial structure and of its mechanical properties would occur despite the absence of treatments.

Methods and Results

Vascular function and structure were evaluated ex vivo. Compared to the controls, endothelium-dependent vasodilation with acetylcholine was blunted in mesenteric resistance arteries of ß-thalassemic mice while the endothelium-independent vasodilator (sodium nitroprusside) produced comparable vessel dilation, indicating endothelial cell impairment with preserved smooth muscle cell reactivity to nitric oxide (NO). While these findings suggest a decrease in NO bioavailability, Western blotting showed heightened expression of aortic endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) in ß-thalassemia. Vascular remodeling of the common carotid arteries revealed increased medial elastin content. Under isobaric conditions, the carotid arteries of ß-thalassemic mice exhibited decreased wall stress and softening due to structural changes of the vessel wall.


A complex vasculopathy was identified in untransfused ß-thalassemic mice characterized by altered carotid artery structure and endothelial dysfunction of resistance arterioles, likely attributable to reduced NO bioavailability despite enhanced vascular eNOS expression.