Social status, environment, and atherosclerosis in cynomolgus monkeys.

Arteriosclerosis (Dallas, Tex.) 09/1982; 2(5):359-68. DOI: 10.1161/01.ATV.2.5.359
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The purpose of this experiment was to examine the effects of social environment and social status on coronary artery and aortic atherosclerosis in adult male cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Thirty experimental animals were assigned to six groups of five members each, and all animals were fed a moderately atherogenic diet (43% of calories as fat, 0.34 mg cholesterol/Cal) for 22 months. Group memberships were changed periodically among 15 monkeys (unstable social condition) and remained fixed throughout the experiment in the remaining animals (stable social condition). Within each condition, individual monkeys were classified as either dominant or subordinate animals, based on dyadic patterns of aggression and submission. At necropsy, the coronary arteries were subjected to pressure fixation and five sections each were taken from the left anterior descending, left circumflex, and right coronary arteries. The mean intimal area measurement, based on all arterial sections, served as a coronary index for each animal. Results indicated that dominant animals in the unstable condition had significantly greater coronary artery atherosclerosis than dominant monkeys housed in stable social groups. Coronary artery atherosclerosis in the unstable dominants was also greater than among similarly housed (i.e., unstable) subordinates. A similar pattern was observed in the abdominal aorta, but was not statistically significant. No significant differences or similar patterns were seen in the thoracic aorta. Additional analyses revealed that the coronary artery effects were not due to concomitant differences in total serum cholesterol or high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, blood pressures, ponderosity, or fasting glucose concentrations among the experimental animals. Behaviorally, manipulation of group memberships intensified agonistic encounters and disrupted patterns of affiliative interaction between dominant and subordinate monkeys. Overall, these results suggest that social dominance (an individual behavioral characteristic) is associated with increased coronary artery atherosclerosis, but only under social conditions that provide recurrent threats to the status of dominant animals (i.e., under behavioral challenge).

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