Blood M2-like Monocyte Polarization Is Associated with Calcific Plaque Phenotype in Stable Coronary Artery Disease: A Sub-Study of SMARTool Clinical Trial

Biomedicines. 2022 Feb 28;10(3):565. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10030565.


Background: Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease. The balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory factors, acting on the arterial wall, promotes less or more coronary plaque macro-calcification, respectively. We investigated the association between monocyte phenotypic polarization and CTCA-assessed plaque dense-calcium volume (DCV) in patients with stable coronary artery disease (CAD).

Methods: In 55 patients, individual DCV component was assessed by quantitative CTCA and normalized to total plaque volume. Flow cytometry expression of CD14, CD16, CD18, CD11b, HLA-DR, CD163, CCR2, CCR5, CX3CR1 and CXCR4 was quantified. Adhesion molecules and cytokines were measured by ELISA.

Results: DCV values were significantly associated, by multiple regression analysis, with the expression (RFI) of CCR5 (p = 0.04), CX3CR1 (p = 0.03), CCR2 (p = 0.02), CD163 (p = 0.005) on all monocytes, and with the phenotypic M2-like polarization ratio, RFI CCR5/CD11b (p = 0.01). A positive correlation with the increased expression of chemokines receptors CCR2, CCR5 and CX3CR1 on subsets Mon1 was also present. Among cytokines, the ratio between IL-10 and IL-6 was found to be strongly associated with DCV (p = 0.009).

Conclusions: The association between DCV and M2-like phenotypic polarization of circulating monocytes indicates that plaque macro-calcification in stable CAD may be partly modulated by an anti-inflammatory monocyte functional state, as evidenced by cell membrane receptor patterns.

Keywords: blood monocyte subsets; coronary CT angiography; coronary artery disease; flow cytometry; plaque calcium volume; plasma cytokines.

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