Background: Pathophysiological vascular remodeling in response to disturbed flow with low and oscillatory shear stress (OSS) plays important roles in atherosclerosis progression. Pomegranate extraction (PE) was reported having anti-atherogenic effects. However, whether it can exert a beneficial effect against disturbed flow-induced pathophysiological vascular remodeling to inhibit atherosclerosis remains unclear. The present study aims at investigating the anti-atherogenic effects of pomegranate peel polyphenols (PPP) extraction and its purified compound punicalagin (PU), as well as their protective effects on disturbed flow-induced vascular dysfunction and their underlying molecular mechanisms. Methods: The anti-atherogenic effects of PPP/PU were examined on low-density lipoprotein receptor knockout mice fed with a high fat diet. The vaso-protective effects of PPP/PU were examined in rat aortas using myograph assay. A combination of in vivo experiments on rats and in vitro flow system with human endothelial cells (ECs) was used to investigate the pharmacological actions of PPP/PU on EC dysfunction induced by disturbed flow. In addition, the effects of PPP/PU on vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) dysfunction were also examined. Results: PU is the effective component in PPP against atherosclerosis. PPP/PU evoked endothelium-dependent relaxation in rat aortas. PPP/PU inhibited the activation of Smad1/5 in the EC layers at post-stenotic regions of rat aortas exposed to disturbed flow with OSS. PPP/PU suppressed OSS-induced expression of cell cycle regulatory and pro-inflammatory genes in ECs. Moreover, PPP/PU inhibited inflammation-induced VSMC dysfunction. Conclusion: PPP/PU protect against OSS-induced vascular remodeling through inhibiting force-specific activation of Smad1/5 in ECs and this mechanism contributes to their anti-atherogenic effects.
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