Background: Monocyte activation and migration into the arterial wall are key events in atherogenesis associated with hypercholesterolemia. CD11c/CD18, a beta2 integrin expressed on human monocytes and a subset of mouse monocytes, has been shown to play a distinct role in human monocyte adhesion on endothelial cells, but the regulation of CD11c in hypercholesterolemia and its role in atherogenesis are unknown.
Methods and results: Mice genetically deficient in CD11c were generated and crossbred with apolipoprotein E (apoE)-/- mice to generate CD11c-/-/apoE-/- mice. Using flow cytometry, we examined CD11c on blood leukocytes in apoE-/- hypercholesterolemic mice and found that compared with wild-type and apoE-/- mice on a normal diet, apoE-/- mice on a Western high-fat diet had increased CD11c+ monocytes. Circulating CD11c+ monocytes from apoE-/- mice fed a high-fat diet exhibited cytoplasmic lipid vacuoles and expressed higher levels of CD11b and CD29. Deficiency of CD11c decreased firm arrest of mouse monocytes on vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and E-selectin in a shear flow assay, reduced monocyte/macrophage accumulation in atherosclerotic lesions, and decreased atherosclerosis development in apoE-/- mice on a high-fat diet.
Conclusions: CD11c, which increases on blood monocytes during hypercholesterolemia, plays an important role in monocyte recruitment and atherosclerosis development in an apoE-/- mouse model of hypercholesterolemia.