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1.  Toll-Like Receptor-2 Mediates Diet and/or Pathogen Associated Atherosclerosis: Proteomic Findings 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(9):e3204.
Accumulating evidence implicates a fundamental link between the immune system and atherosclerosis. Toll-like receptors are principal sensors of the innate immune system. Here we report an assessment of the role of the TLR2 pathway in atherosclerosis associated with a high-fat diet and/or bacteria in ApoE+/− mice.
Methods and Results
To explore the role of TLR2 in inflammation- and infection-associated atherosclerosis, 10 week-old ApoE+/−-TLR2+/+, ApoE+/−-TLR2+/− and ApoE+/−-TLR2−/− mice were fed either a high fat diet or a regular chow diet. All mice were inoculated intravenously, once per week for 24 consecutive weeks, with 50 µl live Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.g) (107 CFU) or vehicle (normal saline). Animals were euthanized 24 weeks after the first inoculation. ApoE+/−-TLR2+/+ mice showed a significant increase in atheromatous lesions in proximal aorta and aortic tree compared to ApoE+/−-TLR2+/− and ApoE+/−-TLR2−/− mice for all diet conditions. They also displayed profound changes in plaque composition, as evidenced by increased macrophage infiltration and apoptosis, increased lipid content, and decreased smooth muscle cell mass, all reflecting an unstable plaque phenotype. SAA levels from ApoE+/−-TLR2+/+ mice were significantly higher than from ApoE+/−-TLR2+/− and ApoE+/−-TLR2−/− mice. Serum cytokine analysis revealed increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in ApoE+/−-TLR2+/+ mice compared to ApoE+/−-TLR2+/− and TLR2−/− mice, irrespective of diet or bacterial challenge. ApoE+/−-TLR2+/+ mice injected weekly for 24 weeks with FSL-1 (a TLR2 agonist) also demonstrated significant increases in atherosclerotic lesions, SAA and serum cytokine levels compared to ApoE+/−-TLR2−/− mice under same treatment condition. Finally, mass-spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) of aortic samples analyzed by 2-dimentional gel electrophoresis differential display, identified 6 proteins upregulated greater than 2-fold in ApoE+/−-TLR2+/+ mice fed the high fat diet and inoculated with P.g compared to any other group.
Genetic deficiency of TLR2 reduces diet- and/or pathogen-associated atherosclerosis in ApoE+/− mice, along with differences in plaque composition suggesting greater structural stability while TLR-2 ligand-specific activation triggers atherosclerosis. The present data offers new insights into the pathophysiological pathways involved in atherosclerosis and paves the way for new pharmacological interventions aimed at reducing atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2527517  PMID: 18787704
2.  Activation of the ROCK1 Branch of the Transforming Growth Factor-β Pathway Contributes to RAGE-Dependent Acceleration of Atherosclerosis in Diabetic ApoE Null Mice 
Circulation research  2010;106(6):1040-1051.
The multi-ligand Receptor for AGE (RAGE) contributes to atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein (ApoE) null mice.
To delineate the specific mechanisms by which RAGE accelerated atherosclerosis, we performed Affymetrix gene expression arrays on aortas of non-diabetic and diabetic ApoE null mice expressing RAGE or devoid of RAGE at nine weeks of age, as this reflected a time point at which frank atherosclerotic lesions were not yet present, but that we would be able to identify the genes likely involved in diabetes- and RAGE-dependent atherogenesis.
Methods and Results
We report that there is very little overlap of the genes which are differentially expressed both in the onset of diabetes in ApoE null mice, and in the effect of RAGE deletion in diabetic ApoE null mice. Pathway-Express analysis revealed that the Transforming Growth Factor-β pathway (Tgf-β) and focal adhesion pathways might be expected to play a significant role in both the mechanism by which diabetes facilitates the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in ApoE null mice, and the mechanism by which deletion of RAGE ameliorates this effect. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction studies, Western blotting and confocal microscopy in aortic tissue and in primary cultures of murine aortic smooth muscle cells supported these findings.
Taken together, our work suggests that RAGE-dependent acceleration of atherosclerosis in ApoE null mice is dependent, at least in part, on the action of the ROCK1 branch of the Tgf-β pathway.
PMCID: PMC2848909  PMID: 20133903
AGE; Atherosclerosis; RAGE
3.  Prenatal Arsenic Exposure Alters Gene Expression in the Adult Liver to a Proinflammatory State Contributing to Accelerated Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38713.
The mechanisms by which environmental toxicants alter developmental processes predisposing individuals to adult onset chronic disease are not well-understood. Transplacental arsenic exposure promotes atherogenesis in apolipoprotein E-knockout (ApoE−/−) mice. Because the liver plays a central role in atherosclerosis, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, we hypothesized that accelerated atherosclerosis may be linked to altered hepatic development. This hypothesis was tested in ApoE−/− mice exposed to 49 ppm arsenic in utero from gestational day (GD) 8 to term. GD18 hepatic arsenic was 1.2 µg/g in dams and 350 ng/g in fetuses. The hepatic transcriptome was evaluated by microarray analysis to assess mRNA and microRNA abundance in control and exposed pups at postnatal day (PND) 1 and PND70. Arsenic exposure altered postnatal developmental trajectory of mRNA and microRNA profiles. We identified an arsenic exposure related 51-gene signature at PND1 and PND70 with several hubs of interaction (Hspa8, IgM and Hnf4a). Gene ontology (GO) annotation analyses indicated that pathways for gluconeogenesis and glycolysis were suppressed in exposed pups at PND1, and pathways for protein export, ribosome, antigen processing and presentation, and complement and coagulation cascades were induced by PND70. Promoter analysis of differentially-expressed transcripts identified enriched transcription factor binding sites and clustering to common regulatory sites. SREBP1 binding sites were identified in about 16% of PND70 differentially-expressed genes. Western blot analysis confirmed changes in the liver at PND70 that included increases of heat shock protein 70 (Hspa8) and active SREBP1. Plasma AST and ALT levels were increased at PND70. These results suggest that transplacental arsenic exposure alters developmental programming in fetal liver, leading to an enduring stress and proinflammatory response postnatally that may contribute to early onset of atherosclerosis. Genes containing SREBP1 binding sites also suggest pathways for diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis, both diseases that contribute to increased cardiovascular disease in humans.
PMCID: PMC3376138  PMID: 22719926
4.  Multi-Organ Expression Profiling Uncovers a Gene Module in Coronary Artery Disease Involving Transendothelial Migration of Leukocytes and LIM Domain Binding 2: The Stockholm Atherosclerosis Gene Expression (STAGE) Study 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(12):e1000754.
Environmental exposures filtered through the genetic make-up of each individual alter the transcriptional repertoire in organs central to metabolic homeostasis, thereby affecting arterial lipid accumulation, inflammation, and the development of coronary artery disease (CAD). The primary aim of the Stockholm Atherosclerosis Gene Expression (STAGE) study was to determine whether there are functionally associated genes (rather than individual genes) important for CAD development. To this end, two-way clustering was used on 278 transcriptional profiles of liver, skeletal muscle, and visceral fat (n = 66/tissue) and atherosclerotic and unaffected arterial wall (n = 40/tissue) isolated from CAD patients during coronary artery bypass surgery. The first step, across all mRNA signals (n = 15,042/12,621 RefSeqs/genes) in each tissue, resulted in a total of 60 tissue clusters (n = 3958 genes). In the second step (performed within tissue clusters), one atherosclerotic lesion (n = 49/48) and one visceral fat (n = 59) cluster segregated the patients into two groups that differed in the extent of coronary stenosis (P = 0.008 and P = 0.00015). The associations of these clusters with coronary atherosclerosis were validated by analyzing carotid atherosclerosis expression profiles. Remarkably, in one cluster (n = 55/54) relating to carotid stenosis (P = 0.04), 27 genes in the two clusters relating to coronary stenosis were confirmed (n = 16/17, P<10−27and−30). Genes in the transendothelial migration of leukocytes (TEML) pathway were overrepresented in all three clusters, referred to as the atherosclerosis module (A-module). In a second validation step, using three independent cohorts, the A-module was found to be genetically enriched with CAD risk by 1.8-fold (P<0.004). The transcription co-factor LIM domain binding 2 (LDB2) was identified as a potential high-hierarchy regulator of the A-module, a notion supported by subnetwork analysis, by cellular and lesion expression of LDB2, and by the expression of 13 TEML genes in Ldb2–deficient arterial wall. Thus, the A-module appears to be important for atherosclerosis development and, together with LDB2, merits further attention in CAD research.
Author Summary
The WHO predicts that coronary artery disease (CAD) will become the leading cause of death worldwide in 2010. Currently, major research efforts are focused on understanding the genetics of CAD through multi-center, genome-wide association studies of tens of thousands of patients and controls. Such studies can identify common variants of general importance throughout the entire population, which are likely relatively few. The number of rare genetic variants and variants that act in the context of environmental risk factors for CAD is probably much higher. We performed whole-genome expression analyses in several organs to identify functionally associated genes important for CAD development. We found an atherosclerosis module (A-module) consisting of 128 genes, enriched with genetic risk for CAD, involving transendothelial migration of leukocytes (TEML) and LIM domain binding 2 (LDB2) as its high-hierarchy regulator. Our study design represents a novel way of understanding the molecular underpinnings of CAD, focusing on genome-wide expression sensing both environmental and genetic influences. Investigating the relative enrichment of genetic CAD risk in functional groups (modules and networks) is an alternative approach to extract additional relevant information from genome-wide association studies. The A-module and LDB2 are attractive targets for treatments to modulate TEML and atherosclerosis development.
PMCID: PMC2780352  PMID: 19997623
5.  Npp1 promotes atherosclerosis in ApoE knockout mice 
Ecto-Nucleotide Pyrophosphatase/Phosphodiesterase 1 (NPP1) generates inorganic pyrophosphate (PPi), a physiologic inhibitor of hydroxyapatite deposition. In a previous study, we found NPP1 expression to be inversely correlated with the degree of atherosclerotic plaque calcification. Moreover, function-impairing mutations of ENPP1, the gene encoding for NPP1, are associated with severe, artery tunica media calcification and myointimal hyperplasia with infantile onset in humans. NPP1 and PPi have the potential to modulate atherogenesis by regulating arterial smooth muscle cell (SMC) differentiation and function, including increase of pro-atherogenic osteopontin (OPN) expression. Hence, this study tested the hypothesis that NPP1 deficiency modulates both atherogenesis and atherosclerotic intimal plaque calcification.
Methods and Results
Npp1/ApoE double deficient mice were generated by crossing mice bearing the ttw allele of Enpp1 (that encodes a truncation mutation) with ApoE null mice and fed with high fat/high cholesterol atherogenic diet. Atherosclerotic lesion area and calcification were examined at 13, 18, 23 and 28 weeks of age. The aortic SMCs isolated from both ttw/ttw ApoE−/− and ttw/+ ApoE−/− mice demonstrated decreased Opn expression. The 28 weeks old ttw/ttw ApoE−/− and ttw/+ ApoE−/− had significantly smaller atherosclerotic lesions compared with wild type congenic ApoE−/− mice. Only ttw/ttw but not ttw/+ mice developed artery media calcification. Furthermore in ttw/+ mice, there was a tendency towards increased plaque calcification compared to ApoE−/− mice without Npp1 deficiency.
We conclude that Npp1 promotes atherosclerosis, potentially mediated by Opn expression in ApoE knockout mice.
PMCID: PMC3154990  PMID: 21477221
atherosclerosis; plaque calcification; osteopontin; inorganic pyrophosphate
6.  Nutritional B vitamin deficiency alters the expression of key proteins associated with vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration in the aorta of atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E null mice 
Genes & Nutrition  2014;10(1):446.
Low B vitamin status is linked with human vascular disease. We employed a proteomic and biochemical approach to determine whether nutritional folate deficiency and/or hyperhomocysteinemia altered metabolic processes linked with atherosclerosis in ApoE null mice. Animals were fed either a control fat (C; 4 % w/w lard) or a high-fat [HF; 21 % w/w lard and cholesterol (0/15 % w/w)] diet with different B vitamin compositions for 16 weeks. Aorta tissue was prepared and global protein expression, B vitamin, homocysteine and lipoprotein status measured. Changes in the expression of aorta proteins were detected in response to multiple B vitamin deficiency combined with a high-fat diet (P < 0.05) and were strongly linked with lipoprotein concentrations measured directly in the aorta adventitia (P < 0.001). Pathway analysis revealed treatment effects in the aorta-related primarily to cytoskeletal organisation, smooth muscle cell adhesion and invasiveness (e.g., fibrinogen, moesin, transgelin, vimentin). Combined B vitamin deficiency induced striking quantitative changes in the expression of aorta proteins in atherosclerotic ApoE null mice. Deregulated expression of these proteins is associated with human atherosclerosis. Cellular pathways altered by B vitamin status included cytoskeletal organisation, cell differentiation and migration, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. These findings provide new insight into the molecular mechanisms through which B vitamin deficiency may accelerate atherosclerosis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12263-014-0446-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4250435  PMID: 25446494
Aorta proteome; ApoE null mice; Atherosclerosis; B vitamins; Hyperhomocysteinemia
7.  Impact of Glutathione Peroxidase-1 Deficiency on Macrophage Foam Cell Formation and Proliferation: Implications for Atherogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72063.
Clinical and experimental evidence suggests a protective role for the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase-1 (GPx-1) in the atherogenic process. GPx-1 deficiency accelerates atherosclerosis and increases lesion cellularity in ApoE−/− mice. However, the distribution of GPx-1 within the atherosclerotic lesion as well as the mechanisms leading to increased macrophage numbers in lesions is still unknown. Accordingly, the aims of the present study were (1) to analyze which cells express GPx-1 within atherosclerotic lesions and (2) to determine whether a lack of GPx-1 affects macrophage foam cell formation and cellular proliferation. Both in situ-hybridization and immunohistochemistry of lesions of the aortic sinus of ApoE−/− mice after 12 weeks on a Western type diet revealed that both macrophages and – even though to a less extent – smooth muscle cells contribute to GPx-1 expression within atherosclerotic lesions. In isolated mouse peritoneal macrophages differentiated for 3 days with macrophage-colony-stimulating factor (MCSF), GPx-1 deficiency increased oxidized low density-lipoprotein (oxLDL) induced foam cell formation and led to increased proliferative activity of peritoneal macrophages. The MCSF- and oxLDL-induced proliferation of peritoneal macrophages from GPx-1−/−ApoE−/− mice was mediated by the p44/42 MAPK (p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase), namely ERK1/2 (extracellular-signal regulated kinase 1/2), signaling pathway as demonstrated by ERK1/2 signaling pathways inhibitors, Western blots on cell lysates with primary antibodies against total and phosphorylated ERK1/2, MEK1/2 (mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1/2), p90RSK (p90 ribosomal s6 kinase), p38 MAPK and SAPK/JNK (stress-activated protein kinase/c-Jun N-terminal kinase), and immunohistochemistry of mice atherosclerotic lesions with antibodies against phosphorylated ERK1/2, MEK1/2 and p90RSK. Representative effects of GPx-1 deficiency on both macrophage proliferation and MAPK phosphorylation could be abolished by the GPx mimic ebselen. The present study demonstrates that GPx-1 deficiency has a significant impact on macrophage foam cell formation and proliferation via the p44/42 MAPK (ERK1/2) pathway encouraging further studies on new therapeutic strategies against atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3750037  PMID: 23991041
8.  Enhanced Sensitivity to Low Dose Irradiation of ApoE−/− Mice Mediated by Early Pro-Inflammatory Profile and Delayed Activation of the TGFβ1 Cascade Involved in Fibrogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57052.
Investigating long-term cardiac effects of low doses of ionizing radiation is highly relevant in the context of interventional cardiology and radiotherapy. Epidemiological data report that low doses of irradiation to the heart can result in significant increase in the cardiovascular mortality by yet unknown mechanisms. In addition co-morbidity factor such as hypertension or/and atherosclerosis can enhance cardiac complications. Therefore, we explored the mechanisms that lead to long-term cardiac remodelling and investigated the interaction of radiation-induced damage to heart and cardiovascular systems with atherosclerosis, using wild-type and ApoE-deficient mice.
Methods and Results
ApoE−/− and wild-type mice were locally irradiated to the heart at 0, 0.2 and 2 Gy (RX). Twenty, 40 and 60 weeks post-irradiation, echocardiography were performed and hearts were collected for cardiomyocyte isolation, histopathological analysis, study of inflammatory infiltration and fibrosis deposition. Common and strain-specific pathogenic pathways were found. Significant alteration of left ventricular function (eccentric hypertrophy) occurred in both strains of mice. Low dose irradiation (0.2 Gy) induced premature death in ApoE−/− mice (47% died at 20 weeks). Acute inflammatory infiltrate was observed in scarring areas with accumulation of M1-macrophages and secretion of IL-6. Increased expression of the fibrogenic factors (TGF-β1 and PAI-1) was measured earlier in cardiomyocytes isolated from ApoE−/− than in wt animals.
The present study shows that cardiac exposure to low dose of ionizing radiation induce significant physiological, histopathological, cellular and molecular alterations in irradiated heart with mild functional impairment. Atherosclerotic predisposition precipitated cardiac damage induced by low doses with an early pro-inflammatory polarization of macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3579799  PMID: 23451141
9.  Sildenafil restores endothelial function in the apolipoprotein E knockout mouse 
Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process of the arterial walls and is initiated by endothelial dysfunction accompanied by an imbalance in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide (NO). Sildenafil, a selective phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitor used for erectile dysfunction, exerts its cardiovascular effects by enhancing the effects of NO. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of sildenafil on endothelial function and atherosclerosis progression in apolipoprotein E knockout (apoE−/−) mice.
ApoE−/− mice treated with sildenafil (Viagra®, 40 mg/kg/day, for 3 weeks, by oral gavage) were compared to the untreated apoE−/− and the wild-type (WT) mice.
Aortic rings were used to evaluate the relaxation responses to acetylcholine (ACh) in all of the groups. In a separate set of experiments, the roles of NO and ROS in the relaxation response to ACh were evaluated by incubating the aortic rings with L-NAME (NO synthase inhibitor) or apocynin (NADPH oxidase inhibitor). In addition, the atherosclerotic lesions were quantified and superoxide production was assessed.
Sildenafil restored the vasodilator response to acetylcholine (ACh) in the aortic rings of the apoE−/− mice. Treatment with L-NAME abolished the vasodilator responses to ACh in all three groups of mice and revealed an augmented participation of NO in the endothelium-dependent vasodilation in the sildenafil-treated animals. The normalized endothelial function in sildenafil-treated apoE−/− mice was unaffected by apocynin highlighting the low levels of ROS production in these animals. Moreover, morphological analysis showed that sildenafil treatment caused approximately a 40% decrease in plaque deposition in the aorta.
This is the first study demonstrating the beneficial effects of chronic treatment with sildenafil on endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis in a model of spontaneous hypercholesterolemia. These data indicate that the main mechanism of the beneficial effect of sildenafil on the endothelial function appears to involve an enhancement of the NO pathway along with a reduction in oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3551739  PMID: 23289368
Atherosclerosis; ApoE knockout mice; Sildenafil; Nitric oxide; Oxidative stress; Endothelial dysfunction; PDE5; cGMP
10.  AIP1 suppresses atherosclerosis by limiting hyperlipidemia-induced inflammation and vascular endothelial dysfunction 
Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1)–interacting protein-1 (AIP1) is a signaling adaptor molecule implicated in stress and apoptotic signaling induced by proinflammatory mediators. However, its function in atherosclerosis has not been established. In the present study, we use AIP1-null (AIP1−/−) mice to examine its effect on atherosclerotic lesions in an ApoE-null (ApoE−/−) mouse model of atherosclerosis.
ApoE−/− control mice developed atherosclerosis in the aortic roots and descending aortas upon Western-type diet for 10 weeks, while the atherosclerotic lesions are significantly augmented in ApoE−/−AIP1−/− double knockout (DKO) mice. DKO mice show increases in plasma inflammatory cytokines with no significant alterations in body weight, total cholesterol levels or lipoprotein profiles. Aortas in DKO mice show increased inflammation and endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction with NF-κB activity, correlating with increased accumulation of macrophages in the lesion area. Importantly, macrophages from DKO donors are not sufficient to augment inflammatory responses and atherogenesis when transferred to ApoE-KO recipients. Mechanistic studies suggest that AIP1 is highly expressed in aortic EC but not in macrophages, and AIP1 deletion in EC significantly enhance oxidized LDL-induced NF-κB signaling, gene expression of inflammatory molecules and monocyte adhesion, suggesting that vascular EC are responsible for the increased inflammatory responses observed in DKO mice.
Our data demonstrate that loss of AIP1 in aortic EC primarily contributes to the exacerbated lesion expansion in the ApoE−/−AIP1−/− mice, revealing an important role of AIP1 in limiting inflammation, EC dysfunction and atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3637885  PMID: 23413429
Atherosclerosis; inflammation; endothelial cell; lipids and lipoproteins; macrophage; AIP1
11.  Gene expression signatures differ with extent of atherosclerosis in monkey iliac artery 
Menopause (New York, N.Y.)  2011;18(10):1087-1095.
To evaluate global gene expression patterns in the common iliac arteries of monkeys with varied extent of atherosclerosis.
The left common iliac artery was removed from ovariectomized cynomolgus monkeys (n=12) after 6.5 years of consuming a diet containing fat and cholesterol at levels comparable to that consumed in western populations. Arterial gene expression was analyzed by DNA microarray and real time RT-PCR.
Significant differential expression of 986 genes was observed in iliac arteries containing moderate to large atherosclerotic plaques compared to normal/minimally affected reference group arteries. Atherosclerosis-associated genes included cytokines, chemokines, components of signal transduction pathways, and transcriptional activators and repressors, as well as other functional categories. Real time RT-PCR confirmed differential expression of genes chosen from a variety of functional categories. Specifically, expression of genes for estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1), claudin 11, and BH protocadherin 7 (PCDH7) were reduced, whereas expression of genes for apolipoprotein E (ApoE), growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2), SET domain, bifurcated 2 (SETDB2), phospholipase A2 group IIA (PLA2IIA), phospholipase A2 group VII (PLA2VII), and ring finger protein 149 (RNF149) were increased in atherosclerotic arteries.
The gene expression environment in arteries containing atherosclerotic plaques is profoundly different from that of relatively unaffected arteries and reflects the cellular and molecular complexity of atherosclerosis and associated arterial remodeling processes.
PMCID: PMC3183138  PMID: 21646924
atherogenesis; gene expression; diet; cholesterol; intervention potential; atherosclerosis
12.  Copper Chelation by Tetrathiomolybdate Inhibits Vascular Inflammation and Atherosclerotic Lesion Development in Apolipoprotein E-deficient Mice 
Atherosclerosis  2012;223(2):306-313.
Endothelial activation, which is characterized by upregulation of cellular adhesion molecules and pro-inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, and consequent monocyte recruitment to the arterial intima are etiologic factors in atherosclerosis. Redox-active transition metal ions, such as copper and iron, may play an important role in endothelial activation by stimulating redox-sensitive cell signaling pathways. We have shown previously that copper chelation by tetrathiomolybdate (TTM) inhibits LPS-induced acute inflammatory responses in vivo. Here, we investigated whether TTM can inhibit atherosclerotic lesion development in apolipoprotein E-deficient (apoE−/−) mice. We found that 10-week treatment of apoE−/− mice with TTM (33–66 ppm in the diet) reduced serum levels of the copper-containing protein, ceruloplasmin, by 47%, and serum iron by 26%. Tissue levels of “bioavailable” copper, assessed by the copper-to-molybdenum ratio, decreased by 80% in aorta and heart, whereas iron levels of these tissues were not affected by TTM treatment. Furthermore, TTM significantly attenuated atherosclerotic lesion development in whole aorta by 25% and descending aorta by 45% compared to non-TTM treated apoE−/− mice. This anti-atherogenic effect of TTM was accompanied by several anti-inflammatory effects, i.e., significantly decreased serum levels of soluble vascular cell and intercellular adhesion molecules (VCAM-1 and ICAM-1); reduced aortic gene expression of VCAM-1, ICAM-1, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, and pro-inflammatory cytokines; and significantly less aortic accumulation of M1 type macrophages. In contrast, serum levels of oxidized LDL were not reduced by TTM. These data indicate that TTM inhibits atherosclerosis in apoE−/− mice by reducing bioavailable copper and vascular inflammation, not by altering iron homeostasis or reducing oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3417757  PMID: 22770994
tetrathiomolybdate; endothelial activation; copper chelation; atherosclerosis; vascular inflammation
13.  Anti-Atherogenic Effect of Hydrogen Sulfide by Over-Expression of Cystathionine Gamma-Lyase (CSE) Gene 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113038.
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is an important gaseous signaling molecule that functions in physiological and pathological conditions, such as atherosclerosis. H2S dilates vessels and therefore has been suggested as an anti-atherogenic molecule. Since cystathionine gamma-lyase (CSE) enzyme is responsible for producing H2S in the cardiovascular system, we hypothesized that up-regulation of CSE expression in vivo with preservation of H2S bioactivity can slow down plaque formation and, can serve as a therapeutic strategy against atherosclerosis. In this study, C57BL/6 wild type mice (WT), ApoE knockout mice (KO) and transgenic ApoE knockout mice overexpressing CSE (Tg/KO) at four weeks of age were weaned. They were then fed with either normal or atherogenic diet for 12 weeks. At week 16, serial plasma lipid levels, body weight, and blood pressure were measured prior to euthanization of the mice and the size of atherosclerotic plaques at their aortic roots was measured. Tg/KO mice showed an increase in endogenous H2S production in aortic tissue, reduced atherosclerotic plaque sizes and attenuation in plasma lipid profiles. We also showed an up-regulation in plasma glutathionine peroxidase that could indicate reduced oxidative stress. Furthermore, there was an increase in expression of p-p53 and down regulation of inflammatory nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) in aorta. To conclude, alteration of endogenous H2S by CSE gene activation was associated with reduced atherosclerosis in ApoE-deficient mice. Up-regulation of CSE/H2S pathway attenuates atherosclerosis and this would be a potential target for therapeutic intervention against its formation.
PMCID: PMC4232559  PMID: 25397776
14.  11β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 Gene Knockout Attenuates Atherosclerosis and In Vivo Foam Cell Formation in Hyperlipidemic apoE−/− Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e53192.
Chronic glucocorticoid excess has been linked to increased atherosclerosis and general cardiovascular risk in humans. The enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11βHSD1) increases active glucocorticoid levels within tissues by catalyzing the conversion of cortisone to cortisol. Pharmacological inhibition of 11βHSD1 has been shown to reduce atherosclerosis in murine models. However, the cellular and molecular details for this effect have not been elucidated.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To examine the role of 11βHSD1 in atherogenesis, 11βHSD1 knockout mice were created on the pro-atherogenic apoE−/− background. Following 14 weeks of Western diet, aortic cholesterol levels were reduced 50% in 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice vs. 11βHSD1+/+/apoE−/− mice without changes in plasma cholesterol. Aortic 7-ketocholesterol content was reduced 40% in 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice vs. control. In the aortic root, plaque size, necrotic core area and macrophage content were reduced ∼30% in 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice. Bone marrow transplantation from 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice into apoE−/− recipients reduced plaque area 39–46% in the thoracic aorta. In vivo foam cell formation was evaluated in thioglycollate-elicited peritoneal macrophages from 11βHSD1+/+/apoE−/− and 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice fed a Western diet for ∼5 weeks. Foam cell cholesterol levels were reduced 48% in 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice vs. control. Microarray profiling of peritoneal macrophages revealed differential expression of genes involved in inflammation, stress response and energy metabolism. Several toll-like receptors (TLRs) were downregulated in 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/− mice including TLR 1, 3 and 4. Cytokine release from 11βHSD1−/−/apoE−/−-derived peritoneal foam cells was attenuated following challenge with oxidized LDL.
These findings suggest that 11βHSD1 inhibition may have the potential to limit plaque development at the vessel wall and regulate foam cell formation independent of changes in plasma lipids. The diminished cytokine response to oxidized LDL stimulation is consistent with the reduction in TLR expression and suggests involvement of 11βHSD1 in modulating binding of pro-atherogenic TLR ligands.
PMCID: PMC3562192  PMID: 23383297
15.  Transcriptome Analysis of Genes Regulated by Cholesterol Loading in Two Strains of Mouse Macrophages Associates Lysosome Pathway and ER Stress Response with Atherosclerosis Susceptibility 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e65003.
Cholesterol loaded macrophages in the arterial intima are the earliest histological evidence of atherosclerosis. Studies of mouse models of atherosclerosis have shown that the strain background can have a significant effect on lesion development. We have previously shown that DBA/2 ApoE−/− mice have aortic root lesions 10-fold larger than AKR ApoE−/−mice. The current study analyzes the response to cholesterol loading of macrophages from these two strains. Macrophages from the atherosclerosis susceptible DBA/2 strain had significantly higher levels of total and esterified cholesterol compared to atherosclerosis resistant AKR macrophages, while free cholesterol levels were higher in AKR cells. Gene expression profiles were obtained and data were analyzed for strain, cholesterol loading, and strain-cholesterol loading interaction effects by a fitted linear model. Pathway and transcriptional motif enrichment were identified by gene set enrichment analysis. In addition to observed strain differences in basal gene expression, we identified many transcripts whose expression was significantly altered in response to cholesterol loading, including P2ry13 and P2ry14, Trib3, Hyal1, Vegfa, Ccr5, Ly6a, and Ifit3. Eight pathways were significantly enriched in transcripts regulated by cholesterol loading, among which the lysosome and cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction pathways had the highest number of significantly regulated transcripts. Of the differentially regulated transcripts with a strain-cholesterol loading interaction effect, we identified three genes known to participate in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response, Ddit3, Trib3 and Atf4. These three transcripts were highly up-regulated by cholesterol in AKR and either down-regulated or unchanged in loaded DBA/2 macrophages, thus associating a robust ER stress response with atherosclerosis resistance. We identified significant transcripts with strain, loading, or strain-loading interaction effect that reside within previously described quantitative trait loci as atherosclerosis modifier candidate genes. In conclusion, we characterized several strain and cholesterol induced differences that may lead to new insights into cellular cholesterol metabolism and atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3660362  PMID: 23705026
16.  Invasion of Oral and Aortic Tissues by Oral Spirochete Treponema denticola in ApoE−/− Mice Causally Links Periodontal Disease and Atherosclerosis 
Infection and Immunity  2014;82(5):1959-1967.
Treponema denticola is a predominantly subgingival oral spirochete closely associated with periodontal disease and has been detected in atherosclerosis. This study was designed to evaluate causative links between periodontal disease induced by chronic oral T. denticola infection and atherosclerosis in hyperlipidemic ApoE−/− mice. ApoE−/− mice (n = 24) were orally infected with T. denticola ATCC 35404 and were euthanized after 12 and 24 weeks. T. denticola genomic DNA was detected in oral plaque samples, indicating colonization of the oral cavity. Infection elicited significantly (P = 0.0172) higher IgG antibody levels and enhanced intrabony defects than sham infection. T. denticola-infected mice had higher levels of horizontal alveolar bone resorption than sham-infected mice and an associated significant increase in aortic plaque area (P ≤ 0.05). Increased atherosclerotic plaque correlated with reduced serum nitric oxide (NO) levels and increased serum-oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels compared to those of sham-infected mice. T. denticola infection altered the expression of genes known to be involved in atherosclerotic development, including the leukocyte/endothelial cell adhesion gene (Thbs4), the connective tissue growth factor gene (Ctgf), and the selectin-E gene (Sele). Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) revealed T. denticola clusters in both gingival and aortic tissue of infected mice. This is the first study examining the potential causative role of chronic T. denticola periodontal infection and vascular atherosclerosis in vivo in hyperlipidemic ApoE−/− mice. T. denticola is closely associated with periodontal disease and the rapid progression of atheroma in ApoE−/− mice. These studies confirm a causal link for active oral T. denticola infection with both atheroma and periodontal disease.
PMCID: PMC3993427  PMID: 24566627
17.  PKCβ Promotes Vascular inflammation and Acceleration of Atherosclerosis in Diabetic ApoE Null Mice 
Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology  2013;33(8):10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.301113.
Diabetic subjects are at high risk for developing atherosclerosis through a variety of mechanisms. As the metabolism of glucose results in production of activators of protein kinase C (PKC)β, it was logical to investigate the role of PKCβ in modulation of atherosclerosis in diabetes.
Approach and Results
ApoE−/− and PKCβ −/−/ApoE−/− mice were rendered diabetic with streptozotocin. Quantification of atherosclerosis, gene expression profiling or analysis of signaling molecules was performed on aortic sinus or aortas from diabetic mice. Diabetes-accelerated atherosclerosis increased the level of phosphorylated ERK1/2 and JNK mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinases and augmented vascular expression of inflammatory mediators, as well as increased monocyte/macrophage infiltration and CD11c+ cells accumulation in diabetic ApoE−/− mice; processes which were diminished in diabetic PKCβ −/−/ApoE−/− mice. In addition, pharmacological inhibition of PKCβ reduced atherosclerotic lesion size in diabetic ApoE−/− mice. In vitro, the inhibitors of PKCβ and ERK1/2, as well as small interfering RNA (siRNA) to Egr-1 significantly decreased high glucose-induced expression of CD11c (Itgax), chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) and interleukin (IL)-1β in U937 macrophages.
These data link enhanced activation of PKCβ to accelerated diabetic atherosclerosis via a mechanism that includes modulation of gene transcription and signal transduction in the vascular wall; processes that contribute to acceleration of vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis in diabetes. Our results uncover a novel role for PKCβ in modulating CD11c expression and inflammatory response of macrophages in the development of diabetic atherosclerosis. These findings support PKCβ activation as a potential therapeutic target for prevention and treatment of diabetic atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3865290  PMID: 23766264
atherosclerosis; diabetes; PKCβ; CD11c; inflammation
18.  AT1-receptor-deficiency induced atheroprotection in diabetic mice is partially mediated via PPARγ 
Peroxisome-proliferator–activated-receptor-γ (PPARγ) acts as a transcriptional regulator of multiple genes involved in glucose and lipid metabolism. In vitro studies showed that activated PPARγ suppresses AT1R-gene expression and vice versa. However, it has not yet been determined in vivo, whether AT1R-PPARγ-interactions play a relevant role in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications and specifically in accelerated atherosclerosis.
Methods and results
ApoE−/− and ApoE−/−/AT1R−/−-mice were rendered diabetic by intraperitoneal injections of streptozotocin. Diabetic and non-diabetic ApoE−/−-mice were further randomized to receive the AT1R antagonist telmisartan, the selective PPARγ antagonist GW9662, telmisartan and GW9662 or vehicle for 18 weeks. Diabetic and non-diabetic ApoE−/−/AT1R−/−-mice were randomized to receive either GW9662 or vehicle. GW9662 treatment in diabetic ApoE−/− and diabetic ApoE−/−/AT1−/−-mice resulted in the highest elevation of fasting blood glucose levels, whereas telmisartan treatment and AT1 deficiency in ApoE−/−-mice showed the lowest fasting blood glucose levels. Diabetic ApoE−/−-mice displayed severe impairment of endothelial function, enhanced oxidative stress and increased atherosclerotic lesion formation. ApoE−/−/AT1R−/− and telmisartan-treated ApoE−/−-mice showed a significantly better endothelial function, decreased oxidative stress and reduced atherosclerotic lesion formation. Treatment of diabetic ApoE−/− and ApoE−/−/AT1R−/−-mice with the selective PPARγ antagonist GW9662 omitted the atheroprotective effects of AT1R deficiency or AT1 antagonism.
Genetic disruption or pharmacological inhibition of the AT1R attenuates atherosclerosis and improves endothelial function in diabetic ApoE−/−-mice via the PPARγ pathway.
PMCID: PMC3667017  PMID: 23374104
Diabetes mellitus; Atherosclerosis; Angiotensin; Receptors
19.  Deletion of L-Selectin Increases Atherosclerosis Development in ApoE−/− Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21675.
Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease characterized by accumulation of leukocytes in the arterial intima. Members of the selectin family of adhesion molecules are important mediators of leukocyte extravasation. However, it is unclear whether L-selectin (L-sel) is involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In the present study, mice deficient in L-selectin (L-sel−/−) animals were crossed with mice lacking Apolipoprotein E (ApoE−/−). The development of atherosclerosis was analyzed in double-knockout ApoE/L-sel (ApoE−/− L-sel−/−) mice and the corresponding ApoE−/− controls fed either a normal or a high cholesterol diet (HCD). After 6 weeks of HCD, aortic lesions were increased two-fold in ApoE−/− L-sel−/− mice as compared to ApoE−/− controls (2.46%±0.54% vs 1.28%±0.24% of total aortic area; p<0.05). Formation of atherosclerotic lesions was also enhanced in 6-month-old ApoE−/− L-sel−/− animals fed a normal diet (10.45%±2.58% vs 1.87%±0.37%; p<0.05). In contrast, after 12 weeks of HCD, there was no difference in atheroma formation between ApoE−/− L-sel−/− and ApoE−/− mice. Serum cholesterol levels remained unchanged by L-sel deletion. Atherosclerotic plaques did not exhibit any differences in cellular composition assessed by immunohistochemistry for CD68, CD3, CD4, and CD8 in ApoE−/− L-sel−/− as compared to ApoE−/− mice. Leukocyte rolling on lesions in the aorta was similar in ApoE−/− L-sel−/− and ApoE−/− animals. ApoE−/− L-sel−/− mice exhibited reduced size and cellularity of peripheral lymph nodes, increased size of spleen, and increased number of peripheral lymphocytes as compared to ApoE−/− controls. These data indicate that L-sel does not promote atherosclerotic lesion formation and suggest that it rather protects from early atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3132176  PMID: 21760899
20.  Overexpression of Antioxidant Enzymes in ApoE-Deficient Mice Suppresses Benzo(a)pyrene-Accelerated Atherosclerosis 
Atherosclerosis  2009;207(1):51-58.
The carcinogenic polycylic aromatic hydrocarbon, benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), has been shown to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) and accelerate the development of atherosclerosis. To assess the causal role of BaP-generated ROS in this process, we evaluated atherosclerotic metrics in apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE-/-) mice with or without overexpression of Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn-SOD) and/or catalase. Without BaP, aortic atherosclerotic lesions were smaller in ApoE-/- mice overexpressing catalase or both Cu/Zn-SOD and catalase than in those overexpressing neither or Cu/Zn-SOD only. After treating with BaP or vehicle for 24 weeks, mean lesion sizes in the aortic tree and aortic root of ApoE-/- mice were increased by approximately 60% and 40%, respectively. BaP also increased the levels of oxidized lipids in the aortic tree of ApoE-/- mice and increased the frequency of advanced lesions. In contrast, BaP did not significantly alter lipid peroxidation levels or atherosclerotic lesions in the aortas of ApoE-/- mice overexpressing Cu/Zn-SOD and/or catalase. Overexpression of Cu/Zn-SOD and/or catalase also inhibited BaP-induced expression of cell adhesion molecules in aortas and endothelial cells, and reduced BaP-induced monocyte adhesion to endothelial cells. These observations, together with the functions of catalase and Cu/Zn-SOD to scavenge hydrogen peroxide and superoxide anions, implicate a causal role of ROS in the pathogenesis of BaP-induced atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2783815  PMID: 19409565
Benzo(a)pyrene; atherosclerosis; apolipoprotein E-deficient mice; Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase; catalase
21.  Plasma Cholesterol–Induced Lesion Networks Activated before Regression of Early, Mature, and Advanced Atherosclerosis 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1004201.
Plasma cholesterol lowering (PCL) slows and sometimes prevents progression of atherosclerosis and may even lead to regression. Little is known about how molecular processes in the atherosclerotic arterial wall respond to PCL and modify responses to atherosclerosis regression. We studied atherosclerosis regression and global gene expression responses to PCL (≥80%) and to atherosclerosis regression itself in early, mature, and advanced lesions. In atherosclerotic aortic wall from Ldlr−/−Apob100/100Mttpflox/floxMx1-Cre mice, atherosclerosis regressed after PCL regardless of lesion stage. However, near-complete regression was observed only in mice with early lesions; mice with mature and advanced lesions were left with regression-resistant, relatively unstable plaque remnants. Atherosclerosis genes responding to PCL before regression, unlike those responding to the regression itself, were enriched in inherited risk for coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction, indicating causality. Inference of transcription factor (TF) regulatory networks of these PCL-responsive gene sets revealed largely different networks in early, mature, and advanced lesions. In early lesions, PPARG was identified as a specific master regulator of the PCL-responsive atherosclerosis TF-regulatory network, whereas in mature and advanced lesions, the specific master regulators were MLL5 and SRSF10/XRN2, respectively. In a THP-1 foam cell model of atherosclerosis regression, siRNA targeting of these master regulators activated the time-point-specific TF-regulatory networks and altered the accumulation of cholesterol esters. We conclude that PCL leads to complete atherosclerosis regression only in mice with early lesions. Identified master regulators and related PCL-responsive TF-regulatory networks will be interesting targets to enhance PCL-mediated regression of mature and advanced atherosclerotic lesions.
Author Summary
The main underlying cause of heart attacks and strokes is atherosclerosis. One strategy to prevent these often deadly clinical events is therefore either to slow atherosclerosis progression or better, induce regression of atherosclerotic plaques making them more stable. Plasma cholesterol lowering (PCL) is the most efficient way to induce atherosclerosis regression but sometimes fails to do so. In our study, we used a mouse model with elevated LDL cholesterol levels, similar to humans who develop early atherosclerosis, and a genetic switch to lower plasma cholesterol at any time during atherosclerosis progression. In this model, we examined atherosclerosis gene expression and regression in response to PCL at three different stages of atherosclerosis progression. PCL led to complete regression in mice with early lesions but was incomplete in mice with mature and advanced lesions, indicating that early prevention with PCL in individuals with increased risk for heart attack or stroke would be particularly useful. In addition, by inferring PCL-responsive gene networks in early, mature and advanced atherosclerotic lesions, we identified key drivers specific for regression of early (PPARG), mature (MLL5) and advanced (SRSF10/XRN2) atherosclerosis. These key drivers should be interesting therapeutic targets to enhance PCL-mediated regression of atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3937269  PMID: 24586211
22.  ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− Mice Display Reduced IL-18 Levels and Do Not Develop Enhanced Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13539.
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that evolves from the interaction of activated endothelial cells, macrophages, lymphocytes and modified lipoproteins (LDLs). In the last years many molecules with crucial metabolic functions have been shown to prevent important steps in the progression of atherogenesis, including peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs) and the class III histone deacetylase (HDAC) SIRT1. The PPARγ coactivator 1 alpha (Ppargc1a or PGC-1α) was identified as an important transcriptional cofactor of PPARγ and is activated by SIRT1. The aim of this study was to analyze total PGC-1α deficiency in an atherosclerotic mouse model.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To investigate if total PGC-1α deficiency affects atherosclerosis, we compared ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− and ApoE−/− PGC-1α+/+ mice kept on a high cholesterol diet. Despite having more macrophages and a higher ICAM-1 expression in plaques, ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− did not display more or larger atherosclerotic plaques than their ApoE−/− PGC-1α+/+ littermates. In line with the previously published phenotype of PGC-1α−/− mice, ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− mice had marked reduced body, liver and epididymal white adipose tissue (WAT) weight. VLDL/LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride contents were also reduced. Aortic expression of PPARα and PPARγ, two crucial regulators for adipocyte differentitation and glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as the expression of some PPAR target genes was significantly reduced in ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− mice. Importantly, the epididymal WAT and aortic expression of IL-18 and IL-18 plasma levels, a pro-atherosclerotic cytokine, was markedly reduced in ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− mice.
ApoE−/− PGC-1α−/− mice, similar as PGC-1α−/− mice exhibit markedly reduced total body and visceral fat weight. Since inflammation of visceral fat is a crucial trigger of atherogenesis, decreased visceral fat in PGC-1α-deficient mice may explain why these mice do not develop enhanced atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2962638  PMID: 21042583
23.  B Cell Aortic Homing and Atheroprotection Depend on Id3 
Circulation Research  2011;110(1):e1-e12.
B cells are abundant in the adventitia of normal and diseased vessels. Yet, the molecular and cellular mechanisms mediating homing of B cells to the vessel wall and B cell effects on atherosclerosis are poorly understood. Inhibitor of Differentiation-3 (Id3), is important for atheroprotection in mice and polymorphism in the human ID3 gene has been implicated as a potential risk marker of atherosclerosis in humans. Yet the role of Id3 in B cell regulation of atherosclerosis is unknown.
To determine if Id3 regulates B cell homing to the aorta and atheroprotection, and identify molecular and cellular mechanisms mediating this effect.
Methods and Results
Loss of Id3 in Apoe−/− mice resulted in early and increased atherosclerosis. Flow cytometry revealed a defect in Id3−/− Apoe−/− mice in the number of B cells in the aorta, but not the spleen, lymph nodes and circulation. Similarly, B cells transferred from Id3−/− Apoe−/− mice into B cell deficient micereconstituted spleen, lymph node and blood similarly to B cells from Id3+/+ Apoe−/− mice, but aortic reconstitution and B cell-mediated inhibition of diet-induced atherosclerosis was significantly impaired. In addition to retarding initiation of atherosclerosis, B cells homed to regions of existing atherosclerosis, reduced macrophage content in plaque and attenuated progression of disease. The chemokine receptor, CCR6, was identified as an important Id3 target mediating aortic homing and atheroprotection.
Together, these results are the first to identify the Id3-CCR6 pathway in B cells and demonstrate its role in aortic B cell homing and B cell mediated protection from early atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3253259  PMID: 22034493
Atherosclerosis; B lymphocytes; Transcription factors; Helix-loop-helix; Homing
24.  BMP4 is increased in the aortas of diabetic ApoE knockout mice and enhances uptake of oxidized low density lipoprotein into peritoneal macrophages 
BMP4, a member of the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily, is upregulated in the aortas of diabetic db/db mice. However, little is known about its role in diabetic atherosclerosis. Therefore, we examined the roles of BMP4 in the formation of diabetic atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E knockout (ApoE KO) mice and in the uptake of oxidized low density lipoprotein (oxLDL) in peritoneal macrophages of wild-type mice.
To induce diabetes, ApoE KO mice were intraperitoneally injected with streptozotocin. Diabetic and non-diabetic ApoE KO mice were then fed a high-fat diet for 4 weeks. Next, to investigate a role of BMP4 in the peritoneal macrophages, we examined the uptake of oxLDL in BMP4-treated macrophages.
Diabetic ApoE KO mice showed accelerated progression of aortic plaques accompanied by increased luminal plaque area. Western blot analysis showed that BMP4 expression in the whole aorta was greatly increased in diabetic ApoE KO mice, than non-diabetic mice. Western blot analysis showed that the BMP4/SMAD1/5/8 signaling pathway was strongly activated in the aorta from diabetic ApoE KO mice, compared with control ApoE KO mice. Double immunofluorescence staining showed that BMP4 was expressed in MOMA2-labeled macrophage in the aortic lesions of ApoE KO mice. BMP4 significantly increased the uptake of oxLDL into peritoneal macrophages in vitro.
We show that in the aorta of diabetic ApoE KO mice, BMP4 is increased and activates SMAD1/5/8. Our in vitro findings indicate that BMP4 enhances oxLDL uptake in mouse peritoneal macrophages, suggesting BMP4 may be involved in aortic plaque formation in diabetic ApoE KO mice. Targeting BMP4 may offer a new strategy for inhibition of plaque progression and stabilization of atherosclerotic lesions.
PMCID: PMC3852969  PMID: 24107300
BMP4; Atherosclerosis; Diabetes; Macrophage; Oxidized low density lipoproteins
25.  S100A12 in Vascular Smooth Muscle Accelerates Vascular Calcification in Apolipoprotein E–Null Mice by Activating an Osteogenic Gene Regulatory Program 
The proinflammatory cytokine S100A12 is associated with coronary atherosclerotic plaque rupture. We previously generated transgenic mice with vascular smooth muscle–targeted expression of human S100A12 and found that these mice developed aortic aneurysmal dilation of the thoracic aorta. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that S100A12 expressed in vascular smooth muscle in atherosclerosis-prone apolipoprotein E (ApoE)–null mice would accelerate atherosclerosis.
Methods and Results
ApoE-null mice with or without the S100A12 transgene were analyzed. We found a 1.4-fold increase in atherosclerotic plaque size and more specifically a large increase in calcified plaque area (45% versus 7% of innominate artery plaques and 18% versus 10% of aortic root plaques) in S100A12/ApoE-null mice compared with wild-type/ApoE-null littermates. Expression of bone morphogenic protein and other osteoblastic genes was increased in aorta and cultured vascular smooth muscle, and importantly, these changes in gene expression preceded the development of vascular calcification in S100A12/ApoE-null mice. Accelerated atherosclerosis and vascular calcification were mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress because inhibition of NADPH oxidase attenuated S100A12-mediated osteogenesis in cultured vascular smooth muscle cells. S100A12 transgenic mice in the wild-type background (ApoE+/+) showed minimal vascular calcification, suggesting that S100A12 requires a proinflammatory/proatherosclerotic environment to induce osteoblastic differentiation and vascular calcification.
Vascular smooth muscle S100A12 accelerates atherosclerosis and augments atherosclerosis-triggered osteogenesis, reminiscent of features associated with plaque instability.
PMCID: PMC3364048  PMID: 20966394
calcification; coronary artery disease; genetically altered mice; vascular biology

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