The effect of HLA-DRB1*04:01 on a mouse model of atherosclerosis

J Transl Autoimmun. 2023 Jun 21:7:100203. doi: 10.1016/j.jtauto.2023.100203. eCollection 2023 Dec.


Objectives: HLA-DRB1 is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This study aimed to determine the effect of HLA-DRB1 on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) using a novel mouse model.

Methods: Mice transgenic for HLA-DRB1*04:01 (DR4tg) were crossed with low density lipoprotein receptor knock-out (Ldlr-/-) mice that develop atherosclerosis when fed a high fat, high cholesterol (HFHC) diet. Male and female DR4tgLdlr-/- (n = 48), Ldlr-/- (n = 24), DR4tg (n = 24), and C57Bl/6 (B6) background (n = 24) mice were fed HFHC or regular diet (RD) for 12 weeks. Blood samples were analyzed for serum lipoproteins using a colorimetric assay. C-reactive protein (CRP) and oxidized LDL (OxLDL) were measured using ELISA. Atherosclerosis in the aortas was assessed using the lipid stain, Sudan IV. The presence of citrulline in atherosclerotic plaque was determined by immunohistochemistry.

Results: Sera low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels were higher in HFHC-fed Ldlr-/- versus DR4tgLdlr-/--; p = 0.0056, but the aortic plaque burden and degree of citrullination in the plaque were similar for these two strains. The ratio of pro-atherogenic OxLDL to LDL levels was higher in DR4tgLdlr-/- than Ldlr-/-mice; p = 0.0017. All mice had an increase in CRP when fed a HFHC diet, most pronounced for DR4tgLdlr-/-; p = 0.0009. There were no significant sex differences for DR4tgLdlr-/- mice; however, male Ldlr-/- mice had worse atherosclerosis. B6 and DR4tg mice did not have significant elevations in serum cholesterol levels and did not develop atherosclerosis.

Conclusions: Expression of HLA-DRB1 resulted in an elevation of OxLDL and a reduction in the male bias for atherosclerosis, mimicking what is observed in RA.

Keywords: Animal models; Atherosclerosis; HLA-DRB1; Rheumatoid arthritis.