Objective: To examine infiltration of blood foamy monocytes, containing intracellular lipid droplets, into early atherosclerotic lesions and its contribution to development of nascent atherosclerosis.
Approach and results: In apoE(-/-) mice fed Western high-fat diet (WD), >10% of circulating monocytes became foamy monocytes at 3 days on WD and >20% of monocytes at 1 week. Foamy monocytes also formed early in blood of Ldlr(-/-)Apobec1(-/-) (LDb) mice on WD. Based on CD11c and CD36, mouse monocytes were categorized as CD11c(-)CD36(-), CD11c(-)CD36(+), and CD11c(+)CD36(+). The majority of foamy monocytes were CD11c(+)CD36(+), whereas most nonfoamy monocytes were CD11c(-)CD36(-) or CD11c(-)CD36(+) in apoE(-/-) mice on WD. In wild-type mice, CD11c(+)CD36(+) and CD11c(-)CD36(+), but few CD11c(-)CD36(-), monocytes took up cholesteryl ester-rich very low-density lipoproteins (CE-VLDLs) isolated from apoE(-/-) mice on WD, and CE-VLDL uptake accelerated CD11c(-)CD36(+) to CD11c(+)CD36(+) monocyte differentiation. Ablation of CD36 decreased monocyte uptake of CE-VLDLs. Intravenous injection of DiI-CE-VLDLs in apoE(-/-) mice on WD specifically labeled CD11c(+)CD36(+) foamy monocytes, which infiltrated into nascent atherosclerotic lesions and became CD11c(+) cells that were selectively localized in atherosclerotic lesions. CD11c deficiency reduced foamy monocyte infiltration into atherosclerotic lesions. Specific and consistent depletion of foamy monocytes (for 3 weeks) by daily intravenous injections of low-dose clodrosome reduced development of nascent atherosclerosis.
Conclusions: Foamy monocytes, which form early in blood of mice with hypercholesterolemia, infiltrate into early atherosclerotic lesions in a CD11c-dependent manner and play crucial roles in nascent atherosclerosis development.
Keywords: atherosclerosis; diet, high-fat; inflammation; lipoproteins; monocytes.
© 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.