Cigarette smoking is a major risk for developing atherosclerosis; however, the underlying mechanism is poorly understood. This paucity of knowledge is largely attributed to the lack of an animal model; therefore, our efforts were targeted towards establishing cigarette smoke (CS)-induced atherosclerosis in guinea pig. To understand the mechanism, we investigated apoptosis, an event implicated in atherosclerosis, in the aorta of CS-exposed animals. Since a major deleterious effect of CS is oxidative stress, we also examined the effect of vitamin C, an antioxidant, on CS- induced atherosclerosis.
METHODS AND RESULTS:
Guinea pigs on a diet with or without vitamin C supplement were exposed to CS for different time periods. Aortal sections from these animals were examined for atherosclerotic changes by staining with H&E and Oil red O. Atherogenic changes were observed in sections obtained from CS-exposed guinea pigs only. TUNEL assay showed the occurrence of apoptosis in CS-exposed guinea pig aorta. Our results revealed that CS-induced apoptosis could contribute to the progression but not to the initiation of the disease. Immunohistochemical analysis documents that CS-induced apoptosis in aortal sections is mediated at least in part by an increased Bax/Bcl2 ratio. In contrast, CS-exposed guinea pigs fed with vitamin C-supplemented diet exhibit little or no atherogenic changes. This anti-atherosclerotic activity of vitamin C can be attributed partly to its ability to inhibit CS-induced apoptosis and platelet activation.
Exposure of guinea pigs to cigarette smoke causes the development of atherosclerosis, which can be prevented by vitamin C supplement.