Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Charles D. Loftin


Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a disease of the aorta characterized by pathological remodeling and progressive weakening of the vessel resulting in the increased risk of rupture and sudden death. In a mouse model of the disease induced by chronic Angiotensin II (AngII) infusion, progression of AAAs is associated with reduced differentiation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) at the site of lesion development. In the mouse model, the effectiveness of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibition for attenuating AAA progression is associated with maintenance of a differentiated SMC phenotype. However, the safety of COX-2 inhibitors is currently in question due to the increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events. Thus, it is crucial to identify mediators downstream of COX-2 that may provide new targets for treatment of this disease.

Recent studies in humans and mouse models have suggested that the microsomal prostaglandin E synthase (mPGES-1) enzyme, which acts downstream of COX-2, may also be involved in the pathogenesis of the disease. We hypothesized that increased prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) synthesis resulting from the induction of both COX-2 and mPGES-1 may result in reduced differentiation of SMCs, and that disruption of this pathway would preserve the differentiated phenotype. To test this hypothesis, human aortic smooth muscle cells (hASMCs) were utilized to examine the effects of a variety of agents involved in AAA development and the COX-2 pathway.

My findings suggest that one of the effects of exposing hASMCs to AngII involves a specific induction of mPGES-1 expression. Furthermore, although different COX-2-derived products may have opposing effects, mPGES-1-derived PGE2 may be the primary prostanoid synthesized by SMCs which functions to attenuate differentiation. Therefore, mPGES-1 inhibition may provide inhibition of PGE2 that is more specific than COX-2 inhibitor treatment and may serve as a therapeutic target for attenuating AAA progression by maintaining a differentiated SMC phenotype.