Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) are derived from distinct embryonic origins. Vessels originating from differing smooth muscle cell populations have distinct vascular and pathological properties involving calcification, atherosclerosis, and structural defects such as aneurysm and coarctation. We hypothesized that domains within a single vessel, such as the aorta, vary in phenotype based on embryonic origin. Gene profiling and myographic analyses demonstrated that embryonic ascending and descending aortic domains exhibited distinct phenotypes. In vitro analyses demonstrated that VSMCs from each region were dissimilar in terms of cytoskeletal and migratory properties, and retention of different gene expression patterns. Using the same analysis, we found that these same two domains are indistinguishable in the adult vessel. Our data demonstrate that VSMCs from different embryonic origins are functionally distinct in the embryonic mouse, but converge to assume a common phenotype in the aorta of healthy adults. These findings have fundamental implications for aortic development, function and disease progression.
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