Role of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 in protection against inflammation during atherogenesis: studies in the Apoe-/- /11β-HSD2-/- double knockout mouse.
Armour, Danielle Louise
It is well established that atherosclerosis, an inflammatory response to chronic injury in the blood vessel wall, plays a leading role in the development and progression of cardiovascular disease. Mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) over-activation has been implicated in atherosclerosis. In mineralocorticoid-target tissues, 11β- Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2) inactivates glucocorticoids, conferring aldosterone specificity upon the normally unselective MR. Recent evidence suggests that 11β-HSD2 may also afford protection of MR in the cells of the vasculature, providing possible mechanisms by which MR activation may directly promote atherosclerosis. Consistent with this, Apoe-/-/11β-HSD2-/- double knockout (DKO) mice show accelerated atheroma development. The present thesis tested the hypothesis that inactivation of 11β-HSD2, allowing inappropriate activation of MR in cells of the vasculature, accelerates atherogenesis through promotion of a pro-inflammatory environment with increased endothelial cell expression of adhesion molecules and subsequent macrophage infiltration into plaques. DKO mice received either the MR antagonist eplerenone (200mg/kg/day) or vehicle in normal chow diet from 2 months of age for 12 weeks. Eplerenone significantly decreased atherosclerotic burden in brachiocephalic arteries of DKO mice, an effect that was accompanied by alterations in the cellular composition of plaques such that a more stable collagen- and smooth muscle cell- rich plaque was formed. Eplerenone treatment was also associated with a reduction in vascular inflammation as demonstrated by a significant reduction in macrophage infiltration into DKO plaques. The accelerated atherogenesis in DKO mice was clearly evident by 3 months of age, a time point at which Apoe-/- mice were completely lesion free. By 6 months, some Apoe-/- mice had developed lesions whilst all DKO mice at this age showed much larger plaques. Compared to Apoe-/- mice, the cellular composition of DKO plaques was altered favouring vulnerability and inflammation, with increased macrophage and lipid content and decreased collagen content. To investigate the possible underlying mechanisms responsible for increased inflammatory cell content, the expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1) was compared in DKO and Apoe-/- brachiocephalic arteries. VCAM-1 immunostaining was significantly greater on the endothelial cells of DKO arteries at 3 months compared to age-matched Apoe-/- mice. At 6 months, DKO and Apoe-/- mice had similar expression of VCAM-1. Finally, mouse aortic endothelial cells (MAECs) were used to investigate the mechanism of adhesion molecule up-regulation in the absence of 11β-HSD2. Both aldosterone and TNF-α, included as a positive control, dramatically increased VCAM-1 expression in MAECs. Spironolactone pre-treatment blocked the effect of aldosterone, suggesting an MR-mediated mechanism. Corticosterone alone had no effect on VCAM-1 expression. However, inhibition of 11β-HSD2 by pre-treatment with glycyrrhetinic acid allowed corticosterone to induce a significant increase in the number of VCAM-1-stained MAECs, demonstrating functional expression of 11β- HSD2 in MAECs. Consistent with 11β-HSD2 involvement, VCAM-1 up-regulation by corticosterone in the presence of glycyrrhetinic acid was reversed by blockade of MR with spironolactone. In conclusion, loss of 11β-HSD2 activity leading to inappropriate activation of MR in atherosclerotic mice promotes plaque vulnerability and increases vascular infiltration of macrophages which accelerates plaque growth, possibly through enhanced MR- mediated endothelial cell expression of VCAM-1.