CCR5 facilitates endothelial progenitor cell recruitment and promotes the stabilization of atherosclerotic plaques in ApoE-/- mice

Zhongwen Zhang, Jianjun Dong, Corrinne G Lobe, Peiyun Gong, Ju Liu, Lin Liao
Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2015, 6: 36

INTRODUCTION: Unstable atherosclerotic plaques are prone to rupture, which leads to atherothrombosis. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are bone marrow-derived precursor cells that may repair vascular injury in atherosclerosis. Chemokine (C-C motif) receptor 5 (CCR5) promotes mobilization of EPCs. In this study, we investigated the therapeutic potential of CCR5-overexpressing EPCs on plaque stabilization in an apolipoprotein E (ApoE)-/- mouse model.

METHODS: The expression of CCR5 and its cognate ligand chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 5 (CCL5) was examined in atherosclerotic aortas of humans and mice by immunohistochemistry. Splenectomized ApoE-/- C57BL/6 J mice fed a high-fat diet for 24 weeks were intravenously injected with EPCs transfected with CCR5 overexpression lentivirus. The recruitment of EPCs over the atherosclerotic plaques was evaluated by immunofluorescence. The content of lipid, smooth muscle cells, monocytes/macrophages, and endothelial cells in atherosclerotic plaques was assayed by specific immunostaining. The serum levels of atherosclerosis-related inflammatory factors in ApoE-/- mice were measured by mouse atherosclerosis antibody array I.

RESULTS: CCR5 and CCL5 are highly expressed in atherosclerotic plaques in both humans and mice. The ApoE-/- mice with CCR5-overexpressing EPC treatment demonstrated a more stable plaque formation with enhanced recruitment of EPC, reduced lipid, and macrophage content in the atherosclerotic plaques. CCR5-overexpressing EPC treatment also increased the content of endothelial cells and nitric oxide production in the plaques. In addition, the serum levels of interleukin-3 (IL-3), IL-5, IL-6, IL-13, CD40, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha and the plaque contents of IL-6 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 were reduced in mice with CCR5-overexpressing EPC treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that CCR5 is a novel therapeutic target in EPC treatment for stabilization of atherosclerotic plaques.

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