Transfilter culture systems with enzymatically isolated human vascular cells were established to imitate the morphologic situation of the inner parts of a vessel wall.
In transfilter cultures, only smooth muscle cells were seeded on one side of the filter, whereas in transfilter cocultures, smooth muscle cells were cultivated in the presence of confluent or nonconfluent (injured) endothelial cells on the other side of the filter. The filter mimics the porous internal elastic lamina. Fourteen days after seeding, cultures were fixed, embedded in Araldite (Serva, Heidelberg, Germany), and prepared for histologic examination (light microscopy, indirect immunofluorescence staining of von Willebrand factor- and α-smooth muscle actin-antigen).
In transfilter cultures, smooth muscle cells migrated through the pores to the opposite side of the filter, replicated there, and formed fibromuscular proliferates (two to four layers of smooth muscle cells). The proliferation rates of the smooth muscle cells were similar on both sides of the filter and showed an optimum rate on day 4 in culture as determined by 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine labeling. By cocultivating a confluent endothelial cell layer on one side of the filter, migratory activity of smooth muscle cells was inhibited. However, when smooth muscle cells were cultivated together with proliferating endothelial cells (injured state), proliferation of smooth muscle cells was massively stimulated (up to 12 layers of smooth muscle cells).
The results indicate that the confluency of the endothelial cells and their proliferation rate influence the migratory and proliferative behavior of smooth muscle cells. The transfilter system may be a suitable model for prescreening of potential antiproliferative and antiarteriosclerotic drugs.