Deletion of Myeloid GSK3α Attenuates Atherosclerosis and Promotes an M2 Macrophage Phenotype

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015 May;35(5):1113-22. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.115.305438. Epub 2015 Mar 12.


Objective: Glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3α/β has been implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus, cancer, Alzheimer, and atherosclerosis. The tissue- and homolog-specific functions of GSK3α and β in atherosclerosis are unknown. This study examines the effect of hepatocyte or myeloid cell deletion of GSK3α or GSK3β on atherosclerosis in low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR)(-/-) mice.

Approach and results: We ablated GSK3α or GSK3β expression in hepatic or myeloid cells of LDLR(-/-) mice, and mice were fed a high-fat diet for 10 weeks. GSK3α or GSK3β deficiency in hepatic or myeloid cells did not affect metabolic parameters, including plasma lipid levels. Hepatic deletion of GSK3α or GSK3β did not affect the development of atherosclerosis or hepatic lipid content. Myeloid deletion of GSK3α, but not of GSK3β, reduced atherosclerotic lesion volume and lesion complexity. Mice lacking GSK3α in myeloid cells had a less inflammatory and more anti-inflammatory plasma cytokine profile. Macrophages within atherosclerotic lesions of myeloid GSK3α-deficient mice, but not of GSK3β-deficient mice, displayed reduced expression of markers associated with M1 macrophage polarization and enhanced expression of the M2 markers. Finally, bone marrow-derived macrophages were isolated and differentiated into classical M1 macrophages or alternative M2 macrophages in vitro. GSK3α deletion, but not GSK3β deletion, attenuated the expression of genes associated with M1 polarization while promoting the expression of genes associated with M2 polarization by modulating STAT3 and STAT6 activation.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that deletion of myeloid GSK3α attenuates the progression of atherosclerosis by promoting an M2 macrophage phenotype.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; glycogen synthase kinase 3; myeloid cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics*
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / genetics*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism
  • Phenotype


  • Cytokines
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3