Varicose vein disease is a common condition. Its pathology is not well characterized. A disor ganization of smooth muscle cells and extracellular matrix components in the venous wall have been described. The objective of this paper is to offer an explanation for the abnormal distensibility of varicose veins. The content of hydroxyproline was quantified in control and varicose human saphenous veins. The synthesis of collagen types I, III, and V was quantified in cultured venous smooth muscle cells and dermal fibroblasts of control subjects and patients with varicose veins. The proportion of collagen type III in the heterofibrils composed by collagen types I, III, and V was calculated. The level of hydroxyproline was increased in varicose veins, suggesting an increased content of collagen. This augmentation of collagen in diseased tissues appears to be correlated with an increase of collagen type I since the collagen I mRNA was overexpressed in varicose veins, whereas collagen type III mRNA was not altered. The quan tification of collagen synthesis in cultured cells shows that proportion of collagen type III was significantly decreased in cultured smooth muscle cells and dermal fibroblasts derived from patients with varicose veins. The results indicate a deficiency in collagen type III in patients with varicose veins. Since collagen type III is involved in tissue elasticity, these results offer an explanation for the abnormal distensibility of varicose veins. Moreover, this defect seems to be generalized in different tissues and argues in favor of a genetic alteration of remodeling in these patients.
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