Background: Endovascular treatment of atherosclerotic arterial disease exhibits sex differences in clinical outcomes including restenosis. However, sex-specific differences in arterial identity during arterial remodeling have not been described. We hypothesized that sex differences in expression of the arterial determinant erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular receptor interacting protein (Ephrin)-B2 occur during neointimal proliferation and arterial remodeling. Methods and results: Carotid balloon injury was performed in female and male Sprague–Dawley rats without or 14 days after gonadectomy; the left common carotid artery was injured and the right carotid artery in the same animal was used as an uninjured control. Arterial hemodynamics were evaluated in vivo using ultrasonography pre-procedure and post-procedure at 7 and 14 days and wall composition examined using histology, immunofluorescence and Western blot at 14 days after balloon injury. There were no significant baseline sex differences. 14 days after balloon injury, there was decreased neointimal thickness in female rats with decreased smooth muscle cell proliferation and decreased type I and III collagen deposition, as well as decreased TNFα- or iNOS-positive CD68+ cells and increased CD206− or TGM2-positive CD68+ cells. Female rats also showed less immunoreactivity of VEGF-A, NRP1, phosphorylated EphrinB2, and increased Notch1, as well as decreased phosphorylated Akt1, p38 and ERK1/2. These differences were not present in rats pretreated with gonadectomy. Conclusions: Decreased neointimal thickness in female rats after carotid balloon injury is associated with altered arterial identity that is dependent on intact sex hormones. Alteration of arterial identity may be a mechanism of sex differences in neointimal proliferation after arterial injury.
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