The structure and function of large arteries alters with age leading to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Age-related large artery remodeling and arteriosclerosis is associated with increased collagen deposition, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction. Bioactive sphingolipids are known to regulate these processes, and are also involved in aging and cellular senescence. However, less is known about age-associated alterations in small artery morphology and function or whether changes in arterial sphingolipids occur in aging. We show that mesenteric small arteries from old sheep have increased lumen diameter and media thickness without a change in media to lumen ratio, indicative of outward hypertrophic remodeling. This remodeling occurred without overt changes in blood pressure or pulse pressure indicating it was a consequence of aging per se. There was no age-associated change in mechanical properties of the arteries despite an increase in total collagen content and deposition of collagen in a thickened intima layer in arteries from old animals. Analysis of the sphingolipid profile showed an increase in long-chain ceramide (C14-C20), but no change in the levels of sphingosine or sphingosine-1-phosphate in arteries from old compared to young animals. This was accompanied by a parallel increase in acid and neutral sphingomyelinase activity in old arteries compared to young. This study demonstrates remodeling of small arteries during aging that is accompanied by accumulation of long-chain ceramides. This suggests that sphingolipids may be important mediators of vascular aging.
- vascular remodeling