Primary cultures of rat aortic endothelial and smooth muscle cells: I. An in vitro model to study xenobiotic-induced vascular cytotoxicity

K. Ramos, L. R. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Primary cultures of rat vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells were developed as models to study xenobiotic-induced cytotoxicity. Endothelial and smooth muscle cells were isolated by enzymatic digestion and mechanical dissociation of rat thoracic aortae. Optimal cell growth and minimal fibroblast contamination in cultures of both cell types were obtained in Medium 199 supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum. Cultured cells were characterized by distinctive morphologic features and growth patterns. Intercellular endothelial cell junctions were selectively stained with silver nitrate. Endothelial cells also exhibited a nonthrombogenic surface, as reflected by platelet-binding studies. Confluent cultures of smooth muscle cells, but not endothelial cells, contracted in response to norepinephrine (10 μM). Cultures of both cell types were exposed to acrolein (2, 5 or 50 ppm), an environmental pollutant, for 4 24 h. Morphologic damage, lactate dehydrogenase release, and cellular thiol content were used as indices of cytotoxicity. Acrolein-induced enzyme leakage and morpholgic alterations were dose- and time-dependent and more pronounced in cultures of smooth muscle cells than in endothelial cells. The total thiol content of endothelial cells exposed to acrolein (50 ppm) for 24 h was not significantly different from that of respective controls. In contrast, the content of treated smooth muscle cells was higher than that of controls. These observations show that primary cultures of vascular cells provide a useful model to evaluate xenobiotic-induced cytotoxicity. The information obtained using a cell culture system may be complemented by the use of other in vivo and in vitro models to determine the mechanisms by which xenobiotics cause vascular cell injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-296
Number of pages9
JournalIn Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1987


  • acrolein
  • cell culture
  • cytotoxicity
  • endothelium
  • smooth muscle
  • vascular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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