Indexed on: 06 Oct '99Published on: 06 Oct '99Published in: American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
The molecular mechanism involved in pulmonary vascular disease (PVD) associated with congenital heart disease (CHD) remains uncertain. Evidence suggesting that angiotensin converting enzyme plays an important role in pulmonary vascular pathology led us to hypothesize that mast cell chymase, another angiotensin I converting enzyme, also had the potential to contribute to the development of PVD in CHD. Twenty-three patients 3 mo to 45 yr of age with atrial or ventricular or both septal defects with increased pulmonary arterial blood flow and pressure, with pulmonary vascular resistance ranging from 1.3 to 8.1 units/m(2), were studied. Mast cells and mast cell chymase were immunohistochemically identified in the lung biopsy tissues obtained during corrective surgery. There was a significant difference in numbers of total mast cells between patients (n = 23) and control subjects (n = 10) with normal pulmonary circulation (p < 0.01). Moreover, chymase-containing mast cells in the lung tissues of patients with CHD showed striking differences from those of control subjects. In the patients, 72% of lung mast cells contained chymase, compared with only 15% in control subjects (p < 0.0001). Chymase-containing mast cells predominantly appeared in the media and adventitia of vessel walls. Importantly, angiotensin II was immunohistochemically detected in perivascular lesions where chymase was present, but not in the lesions where chymase was sparsely seen. Furthermore, the number of chymase-containing mast cells was correlated with pulmonary vascular resistance (r = 0.64). These findings suggest a possible role of mast cell chymase in the development of early-stage PVD in patients with CHD.