Background: C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) belongs to the natriuretic peptide family and is considered to have regulatory effects on vascular tone and smooth muscle growth. Since these features play a role in atherogenesis, the presence of CNP at such sites was studied. Methods and Results: Thirty- three coronary artery segments were harvested at autopsy: 10 normal, with diffuse intimal thickening, and 23 atherosclerotic lesions. Samples were snap-frozen and processed for immunohistochemical staining. For the identification of CNP, a mouse monoclonal antibody (KY-CNP-1) was used. 1A4, EBM-11 (CD68), and von Willebrand factor antibodies were used to stain smooth muscle cells, macrophages, and endothelial cells, respectively. CNP is present in several cell types. Normal arterial segments show CNP-positive endothelial cells. Hypercellular atherosclerotic lesions show distinct CNP positivity of smooth muscle cells and macrophages but a decrease in positivity of endothelial cells. Advanced atherosclerotic lesions contain CNP-positive macrophages, but the smooth muscle cells within the fibrous cap and the surface endothelial cells are almost all CNP negative. Conclusions: These observations suggest that CNP has functional significance in atherogenesis.
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