[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A dysbalance of proteases and their inhibitors is instrumental in remodeling of atherosclerotic plaques. One of the proteases implicated in matrix degradation is cathepsin-S (CatS). To address its role in advanced lesion composition, we generated chimeric LDLr(-/-) mice deficient in leukocyte CatS by transplantation with CatS(-/-)xLDLr(-/-) or with LDLr(-/-) bone marrow and administered a high-fat diet.
No difference in aortic root lesion size could be detected between CatS(+/+) and CatS(-/-) chimeras. However, leukocyte CatS deficiency markedly changed plaque morphology and led to a dramatic reduction in necrotic core area by 77% and an abundance of large foam cells. Plaques of CatS(-/-) chimeras contained 17% more macrophages, 62% less SMCs, and 33% less intimal collagen. The latter two could be explained by a reduced number of elastic lamina fractures. Moreover, macrophage apoptosis was reduced by 60% with CatS deficiency. In vitro, CatS was found to be involved in cholesterol metabolism and in macrophage apoptosis in a collagen and fibronectin matrix.
Leukocyte CatS deficiency results in considerably altered plaque morphology, with smaller necrotic cores, reduced apoptosis, and decreased SMC content and collagen deposition and may thus be critical in plaque stability.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cathepsin K (CatK), an established drug target for osteoporosis, has been reported to be upregulated in atherosclerotic lesions. Due to its proteolytic activity, CatK may influence the atherosclerotic lesion composition and stability. In this study, we investigated the potential role of leucocyte CatK in atherosclerotic plaque remodelling.
To assess the biological role of leucocyte CatK, we used the technique of bone marrow transplantation to selectively disrupt CatK in the haematopoietic system. Total bone marrow progenitor cells from CatK(+/+), CatK(+/-), and CatK(-/-) mice were transplanted into X-ray irradiated low-density lipoprotein receptor knockout (LDLr(-/-)) mice. The selective silencing of leucocyte CatK resulted in phenotypic changes in bone formation with an increased total bone mineral density in the CatK(-/-) chimeras and an effect of gene dosage. The absence of leucocyte CatK resulted in dramatically decreased collagen and increased macrophage content of the atherosclerotic lesions while lesion size was not affected. The atherosclerotic lesions also demonstrated less elastic lamina fragmentation and a significant increase in the apoptotic and necrotic area in plaques of mice transplanted with CatK(-/-) bone marrow.
Leucocyte CatK is an important determinant of atherosclerotic plaque composition, vulnerability, and bone remodelling, rendering CatK an attractive target for pharmaceutical modulation in atherosclerosis and osteoporosis.
Cardiovascular research 12/2008; 81(2):278-85. · 5.80 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Vascular endothelial growth factor-A is widely used in clinical trials for the treatment of cardiac ischemia. VEGF-A was recently suggested to act in a proinflammatory manner, which could aggravate adjacent atherogenesis in VEGF-A-based therapy. To assess potential bystander effects, VEGF-A was focally overexpressed in advanced atherosclerotic plaques in ApoE-/- mice. Sheer-induced carotid artery plaques were transluminally incubated with Ad.hVEGF-A leading to neointimal overexpression of VEGF-A. Ad.hVEGF-A treatment of pre-existing lesions was seen to promote plaque expansion, with a concomitant increase in macrophage and lipid content, whereas it lowered collagen content. In general, Ad.hVEGF-A-treated plaques displayed a more vulnerable phenotype. VEGF-A overexpression was not accompanied by increased microvessel development in the neointima, suggesting that VEGF-A destabilizes atherosclerotic plaques through an angiogenesis-independent mechanism. Intravital microscopy confirmed that treatment with Ad.hVEGF-A led to an increased monocyte adhesion, which was mediated by a VCAM-1/PECAM-1-dependent pathway. VEGF-A indeed induced a differential expression of VCAM-1 and PECAM-1 in endothelial cells. Our data underline the importance of regular monitoring of stenotic vessels adjacent to the site of VEGF-A application. We propose that VCAM-1/PECAM-1-directed cotherapy may be an efficient strategy to prevent bystander effects of focal VEGF-A therapy in patients suffering from cardiovascular disease.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is involved in atherosclerosis and elevated MMP-9 activity has been found in unstable plaques, suggesting a crucial role in plaque rupture. This study aims to assess the effect of MMP-9 on plaque stability in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice at different stages of plaque progression.
Atherosclerotic lesions were elicited in carotid arteries by perivascular collar placement. MMP-9 overexpression in intermediate or advanced plaques was effected by intraluminal incubation with an adenovirus (Ad.MMP-9). A subset was coincubated with Ad.TIMP-1. Mock virus served as a control. Plaques were analyzed histologically. In intermediate lesions, MMP-9 overexpression induced outward remodeling, as shown by a 30% increase in media size (p=0.03). In both intermediate and advanced lesions, prevalence of vulnerable plaque morphology tended to be increased. Half of MMP-9-treated lesions displayed intraplaque hemorrhage, whereas in controls and the Ad.MMP-9/Ad.TIMP-1 group this was 8% and 16%, respectively (p=0.007). Colocalization with neovessels may point to neo-angiogenesis as a source for intraplaque hemorrhage.
These data show a differential effect of MMP-9 at various stages of plaque progression and suggest that lesion-targeted MMP-9 inhibition might be a valuable therapeutic modality in stabilizing advanced plaques, but not at earlier stages of lesion progression.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although IL-18 has been implicated in atherosclerotic lesion development, little is known about its role in advanced atherosclerotic plaques. This study aims to assess the effect of IL-18 overexpression on the stability of preexisting plaques.
Atherosclerotic lesions were elicited in carotid arteries of apolipoprotein E (apoE)-deficient mice (n=32) by placement of a perivascular collar. Overexpression of IL-18 was effected by intravenous injection of an adenoviral vector 5 weeks after surgery. Two weeks after transduction, lesions were analyzed histologically with regard to plaque morphology and composition or by real-time polymerase chain reaction. No difference in plaque size was detected between groups. In the Ad.IL-18-treated group, 62% of lesions displayed a vulnerable morphology or even intraplaque hemorrhage as compared with only 24% in the controls (P=0.037). In agreement, IL-18 overexpression reduced intimal collagen by 44% (P<0.003) and cap-to-core ratio by 41% (P<0.002). Although IL-18 did not affect the expression of collagen synthesis-related genes, it was found to enhance the collagenolytic activity of vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro, suggesting that the low collagen content is attributable to matrix degradation rather than to decreased synthesis.
Systemic IL-18 overexpression markedly decreases intimal collagen content and cap thickness, leading to a vulnerable plaque morphology.