Permanent closure of the ductus arteriosus requires loss of cells from the muscle media and development of neointimal mounds, composed in part of proliferating endothelial cells. We hypothesized that postnatal ductus constriction produces hypoxia of the inner vessel wall; we also hypothesized that hypoxia might lead to cell death and the production of vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF), a hypoxia-inducible growth factor that stimulates endothelial proliferation. We mapped the distribution of hypoxia in newborn baboons and correlated it with the appearance of cell death (TUNEL technique), VEGF expression, and endothelial proliferation (proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression). In the full-term baboon (n = 10), the ductus was functionally closed on Doppler examination by 24 h after delivery. Regions of the ductus where the lumen was most constricted were associated with moderate/intense hypoxia; VEGF expression was increased in the hypoxic muscle media, and luminal endothelial cells, adjacent to the hypoxic media, were proliferating. Cells in the most hypoxic regions of the ductus wall were undergoing DNA fragmentation. In contrast, regions of the ductus with mild degrees of hypoxia had no evidence of cell death, VEGF expression, or endothelial proliferation. Cell death and endothelial proliferation seemed to be limited to regions of the full-term ductus experiencing moderate/intense hypoxia. In the premature baboon (67% gestation) (n = 24), only 29% closed their ductus by Doppler examination before d 6. None of the premature baboons, including those with a closed ductus by Doppler, had evidence of moderate/intense hypoxia; also, there was no evidence of cell death, VEGF expression, endothelial proliferation, or neointima formation by d 6. Therefore, the premature ductus is resistant to developing hypoxia, even when its lumen is constricted; this may make it susceptible to later reopening.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health