Targeted delivery of protein arginine deiminase-4 inhibitors to limit arterial intimal NETosis and preserve endothelial integrity

Cardiovasc Res. 2021 Nov 22;117(13):2652-2663. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvab074.


Aims: Recent evidence suggests that 'vulnerable plaques', which have received intense attention as underlying mechanism of acute coronary syndromes over the decades, actually rarely rupture and cause clinical events. Superficial plaque erosion has emerged as a growing cause of residual thrombotic complications of atherosclerosis in an era of increased preventive measures including lipid lowering, antihypertensive therapy, and smoking cessation. The mechanisms of plaque erosion remain poorly understood, and we currently lack validated effective diagnostics or therapeutics for superficial erosion. Eroded plaques have a rich extracellular matrix, an intact fibrous cap, sparse lipid, and few mononuclear cells, but do harbour neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). We recently reported that NETs amplify and propagate the endothelial damage at the site of arterial lesions that recapitulate superficial erosion in mice. We showed that genetic loss of protein arginine deiminase (PAD)-4 function inhibited NETosis and preserved endothelial integrity. The current study used systemic administration of targeted nanoparticles to deliver an agent that limits NETs formation to probe mechanisms of and demonstrate a novel therapeutic approach to plaque erosion that limits endothelial damage.

Methods and results: We developed Collagen IV-targeted nanoparticles (Col IV NP) to deliver PAD4 inhibitors selectively to regions of endothelial cell sloughing and collagen IV-rich basement membrane exposure. We assessed the binding capability of the targeting ligand in vitro and evaluated Col IV NP targeting to areas of denuded endothelium in vivo in a mouse preparation that recapitulates features of superficial erosion. Delivery of the PAD4 inhibitor GSK484 reduced NET accumulation at sites of intimal injury and preserved endothelial continuity.

Conclusions: NPs directed to Col IV show selective uptake and delivery of their payload to experimentally eroded regions, illustrating their translational potential. Our results further support the role of PAD4 and NETs in superficial erosion.

Keywords: Neutrophil extracellular traps; Atherosclerosis; Cardiovascular nanomedicine; Experimental superficial erosion; Targeted nanoparticles.