Cadmium and lead are heavy metals that have been shown to induce vascular disorders such as atherosclerosis in experimental animals. However, little is known about the mechanisms by which cadmium and lead induce vascular toxicity. The toxicity was investigated using a culture system of vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells. Cadmium destroys the monolayer of endothelial cells and the cytotoxicity is protected by zinc and copper without metallothionein induction. On the other hand, lead does not exhibit cytotoxicity but inhibits the repair of endothelial monolayers after wounding by a lower response to endogenous basic fibroblast growth factor mediated by suppression of the synthesis of perlecan, a large heparan sulfate proteoglycan. In addition, cadmium and lead reduce endothelial fibrinolytic activity by induction of plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 synthesis and by inhibition of tissue-type plasminogen activator, respectively. In vascular smooth muscle cells, cadmium and lead can promote their proliferation and influence proteoglycan synthesis and fibrinolysis in different manners. These results indicate that cadmium and lead have specific toxicities in the proliferation, fibrinolysis, and extracellular matrix formation of vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells.
- Heavy metal
- Vascular toxicity