Objective: Prostaglandin and thromboxane (TXA(2)) generation is increased in atherosclerosis. Studies with selective inhibitors attribute the enhanced prostacyclin (PGI(2)) generation to both cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2 whereas the increased TXA(2) generation reflects platelet COX-1 expression. However, TXA(2) formation remains elevated in patients with cardiovascular disease on doses of aspirin that fully suppress platelet COX-1, suggesting other tissue sources for TXA(2) formation. Disruption of the thromboxane receptor gene suppresses the development of atherosclerosis. Notwithstanding this, the role of COX-1 in atherosclerosis is unclear, as it is widely distributed and contributes to a number of products, including those that potentially contribute to the resolution of inflammation.
Methods and results: We examined the role of COX-1 on prostaglandin generation, development of atherosclerosis and platelet-vessel wall interactions in the apoE(-/-) murine model by disrupting the COX-1 gene. ApoE(-/-)/COX-1(+/+), ApoE(-/-)/COX-1(+/-) and ApoE(-/-)/COX-1(-/-), were administered a 1% cholesterol diet for 8 weeks. Stable urinary metabolites of PGI(2) and TXA(2), which were markedly increased in the ApoE(-/-)/COX-1(+/+) were reduced by disruption of COX-1. Deletion of one or both copies of the COX-1 gene suppressed lesion formation. Assessment of platelet-vessel wall interactions by intravital microscopy showed a significant decrease in firm adhesion of platelets in the apoE/COX-1 double knockout (DKO).
Conclusion: COX-1 contributes to the enhanced formation of both PGI(2) and TXA(2) in atherosclerosis, and to the development of the disease. Non-platelet sources of COX-1 and TXA(2) that are inaccessible to standard doses of aspirin may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.