CD147 Sparks Atherosclerosis by Driving M1 Phenotype and Impairing Efferocytosis

Circ Res. 2024 Jan 19;134(2):165-185. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.123.323223. Epub 2024 Jan 3.


Background: Atherosclerosis is a globally prevalent chronic inflammatory disease with high morbidity and mortality. The development of atherosclerotic lesions is determined by macrophages. This study aimed to investigate the specific role of myeloid-derived CD147 (cluster of differentiation 147) in atherosclerosis and its translational significance.

Methods and results: We generated mice with a myeloid-specific knockout of CD147 and mice with restricted CD147 overexpression, both in an apoE-deficient (ApoE-/-) background. Here, the myeloid-specific deletion of CD147 ameliorated atherosclerosis and inflammation. Consistent with our in vivo data, macrophages isolated from myeloid-specific CD147 knockout mice exhibited a phenotype shift from proinflammatory to anti-inflammatory macrophage polarization in response to lipopolysaccharide/IFN (interferon)-γ. These macrophages demonstrated a weakened proinflammatory macrophage phenotype, characterized by reduced production of NO and reactive nitrogen species derived from iNOS (inducible NO synthase). Mechanistically, the TRAF6 (tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6)-IKK (inhibitor of κB kinase)-IRF5 (IFN regulatory factor 5) signaling pathway was essential for the effect of CD147 on proinflammatory responses. Consistent with the reduced size of the necrotic core, myeloid-specific CD147 deficiency diminished the susceptibility of iNOS-mediated late apoptosis, accompanied by enhanced efferocytotic capacity mediated by increased secretion of GAS6 (growth arrest-specific 6) in proinflammatory macrophages. These findings were consistent in a mouse model with myeloid-restricted overexpression of CD147. Furthermore, we developed a new atherosclerosis model in ApoE-/- mice with humanized CD147 transgenic expression and demonstrated that the administration of an anti-human CD147 antibody effectively suppressed atherosclerosis by targeting inflammation and efferocytosis.

Conclusions: Myeloid CD147 plays a crucial role in the growth of plaques by promoting inflammation in a TRAF6-IKK-IRF5-dependent manner and inhibiting efferocytosis by suppressing GAS6 during proinflammatory conditions. Consequently, the use of anti-human CD147 antibodies presents a complementary therapeutic approach to the existing lipid-lowering strategies for treating atherosclerotic diseases.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; efferocytosis; inflammation; macrophages; mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Atherosclerosis* / metabolism
  • Efferocytosis
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phenotype
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic*
  • TNF Receptor-Associated Factor 6 / metabolism


  • TNF Receptor-Associated Factor 6
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors