Aims: Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disorder of cholesterol deposition in monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) within the arterial wall leading to impingement on the lumen of the vessel. In atherosclerotic lesions, MDM are the primary source of NADPH oxidase-derived superoxide anion (O₂⁻) inducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation leading to their unregulated uptake of oxidized LDL and foam cell formation. We recently discovered that zymosan potently activates monocyte NADPH oxidase via the non-toll pattern recognition receptor (PRR), Dectin-1. Other PRRs bind endogenous human ligands, yet no such ligands have been identiﬁed for Dectin-1. Our hypothesis was that inﬂammation generates endogenous ligands for Dectin-1 that activate O₂⁻ production and thereby contributes to atherogenesis.
Methods and results: Human: anti-zymosan antibodies were used to identify similar, cross-reactive epitopes in human atherosclerotic tissue extracts. Immunoblot analysis revealed consistent antibody reactive protein bands on one- and two-dimensional gel electrophoreses. Vimentin was identified by mass spectrometry in the immunoreactive bands across different tissue samples. Direct binding of vimentin to Dectin-1 was observed using BIACORE. Further data revealed that vimentin induces O₂⁻ production by human monocytes. Analysis of human atherosclerotic lesions revealed that vimentin was detected extracellularly in the necrotic core and in areas of active inflammation. Vimentin also co-localized with Dectin-1 in macrophage-rich regions where O₂⁻ is produced.
Conclusion: We conclude that vimentin is an endogenous, activating ligand for Dectin-1. Its presence in areas of artery wall inflammation and O₂⁻ production suggests that vimentin activates Dectin-1 and contributes to the oxidation of lipids and cholesterol accumulation in atherosclerosis.
Keywords: Alarmins; Atherosclerosis; Dectin-1; Extracellular vimentin; Superoxide anion.