Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease associated with the activation of innate immune TLRs and nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein (NOD)-like receptor pathways. However, the function of most innate immune receptors in atherosclerosis remains unclear. Here, we show that NOD2 is a crucial innate immune receptor influencing vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis severity. 10-week stimulation with muramyl dipeptide (MDP), the NOD2 cognate ligand, aggravated atherosclerosis, as indicated by the augmented lesion burden, increased vascular inflammation and enlarged lipid-rich necrotic cores in Ldlr(-/-) mice. Myeloid-specific ablation of NOD2, but not its downstream kinase, receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 2, restrained the expansion of the lipid-rich necrotic core in Ldlr(-/-) chimeric mice. In vitro stimulation of macrophages with MDP enhanced the uptake of oxidized low-density lipoprotein and impaired cholesterol efflux in concordance with upregulation of scavenger receptor A1/2 and downregulation of ATP-binding cassette transporter A1. Ex vivo stimulation of human carotid plaques with MDP led to increased activation of inflammatory signaling pathways p38 MAPK and NF-κB-mediated release of proinflammatory cytokines. Altogether, this study suggests that NOD2 contributes to the expansion of the lipid-rich necrotic core and promotes vascular inflammation in atherosclerosis.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Inflammation; Innate immunity; Nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein 2; Pattern recognition receptor.
© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.