Objective: Several lines of evidence implicate CD40 ligand (CD40L, CD154) as a mediator and marker of atherosclerosis. This study investigated the involvement of tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factors (TRAFs) in CD40 signaling in endothelial cells (ECs) and their expression in atheromata and cells involved in atherogenesis.
Methods and results: CD40L enhanced the basal expression of TRAF-1, -2, -3, and 6, but not TRAF-5 in ECs. TRAFs associated with CD40 on ligation by CD40L. Study of ECs from TRAF-1, -2, and -5-deficient mice demonstrated functional involvement of TRAFs in proinflammatory CD40 signaling. Whereas TRAF-1 deficiency enhanced CD40L-induced IL-6 and MCP-1 expression, TRAF-2 and TRAF-5 deficiency inhibited CD40L-inducible IL-6 but not MCP-1 expression. Gene silencing in human ECs further delineated functions of TRAFs in CD40 signaling. TRAF-3 silencing in ECs showed increased CD40L-induced IL-6, MCP-1, and IL-8 expression, whereas TRAF-6 silencing increased selectively CD40L-induced MCP-1 expression. Enhanced TRAF levels in atherosclerotic lesions further supports involvement of members of this family of signaling molecules in arterial disease.
Conclusions: These results implicate endothelial TRAF-1, -2, -3, -5, and -6 in CD40 signaling in atherogenesis, identifying these molecules as potential targets for selective therapeutic intervention.