Objective: The process of coronary collateral development is poorly understood. It is assumed that particular angiogenic factors are upregulated during episodes of myocardial ischaemia and act as a trigger for neovascularisation. However, the identity of these factors is unknown. The angiogenic factor vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has been shown to be hypoxia inducible, so this factor may mediate ischaemia induced angiogenesis in the heart. The aim of this study was to examine hypoxia inducibility of VEGF in cultured myocardial cells as well as in normally perfused and ischaemic porcine myocardium. Methods: (1) In vitro experiment: cultured rat myocardial cells were subjected to hypoxia, and steady state levels of VEGF mRNA were measured after 2 and 4 h of hypoxia. (2) In vivo experiment: myocardial ischaemia in pigs hearts was induced by repeated 2-10 min left anterior descending coronary artery occlusions, separated by 20 min of reperfusion. Hearts were retrieved after 6 h of intermittent ischaemia. Total RNA was extracted from normal and ischaemic zones of the heart and processed for RNA blot hybridisation analysis. Results: In vitro experiment: as soon as 2-4 h after exposure of cultures to hypoxia, VEGF mRNA levels were significantly raised (6-10-fold). In vivo experiment: VEGF expression was significantly augmented in the ischaemic territory of the myocardium (three- to fivefold induction). Furthermore, polymerase chain reaction amplification of the reverse transcribed mRNA showed increased production of multiple forms of differentially spliced VEGF mRNA in the ischaemic myocardium. Conclusions: VEGF production in the myocardium is significantly upregulated by hypoxia in vitro and by ischaemia in vivo. These results suggest that VEGF is a likely mediator in the natural process of ischaemia induced myocardial neovascularisation.

Cardiovascular Research 1994;28:1176-1179

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