Caveolin-1 is a regulator of both intracellular calcium homeostasis and endothelial nitric oxide synthase and may play a pathogenetic role in pulmonary hypertension. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the correlations between pulmonary hemodynamics and vessel morphology including the expression of Caveolin-1 in pulmonary arterioles from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who underwent lung-volume reduction surgery. Staining and subsequent analysis was performed on paraffin-embedded lung tissue from COPD patients (n = 12). Pulmonary arteries with an external diameter of 100-500µm were analysed. Immunhistochemistry with antibodies against caveolin-1 was performed and intensity was assessed. Morphometric data were obtained by using computer-assisted imaging software. The findings were quantified and correlated to hemodynamic data obtained by right-heart catheterization. In COPD patients with pulmonary hypertension (n = 5), the expression of caveolin-1 within the medial smooth muscle cell layer was found to be increased, whereas the intimal caveolin-1 was more prominently expressed in COPD patients with normal pulmonary pressures (n = 7). The ratio between these expression patterns was positively correlated to the mean pulmonary artery pressure. Similar findings were observed for the ratio between intimal and medial thickness as well as for the expression of smooth muscle actin (SMA).

Taken together, the expression of caveolin-1 within medial smooth muscle cells of pulmonary arteries in patients with COPD is associated with pulmonary hypertension. Our results thus emphasize a potential novel player in the pathogenesis of COPD-associated pulmonary hypertension.

Keywords: Caveolin-1, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), morphometry, pulmonary hypertension..
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