Abstract 353: Elastase-Activated Stress Response of Vascular Cells
Introduction: Rupture of atherosclerotic plaques is the most abundant cause for stroke. The serine protease elastase plays an important role as it induces death of endothelial cells (ECs) and smooth muscle cells (SMCs), and breaks down the fibrous cap of atherosclerotic plaques. Increased elastase concentrations were found in patients with symptomatic stenosis. We previously showed that elastase activates the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling pathway unfolded protein response (UPR) in rupture-prone plaques of human carotid artery. However, signaling pathways elicited by elastase in vascular cells were largely unknown. We hypothesized that elastase induces cell-type dependent responses in ECs, SMCs and macrophages (M[[Unable to Display Character: Ф]]).
Methods and Results: Different forms of cell death and UPR activation were analyzed in primary and immortalized endothelial cells, coronary artery smooth muscle cells (HCASMCs) and M[[Unable to Display Character: Ф]] after treatment with human neutrophil elastase. To discriminate between the involved cell death types, three independent assays were performed. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL)-assay by confocal microscopy (p < .01), caspase3/7 activity by chemiluminescence-assays (p < .01) and cell-cycle analysis by flow cytometry revealed that an autophagic/apoptotic cell death was induced upon elastase treatment. This appeared specific for ECs, as it was absent in M[[Unable to Display Character: Ф]]. Necrosis (as determined by chemiluminescent lactate dehydrogenase-release assay) and necroptosis (assessed by flow cytometry) played only minor roles. The involvement of the UPR was investigated on protein and / or gene expression level. The high levels of GRP78, phospho-PERK, phospho-eIF2α, spliced XBP1 and CHOP indicate a strongly activated UPR that may give rise to the subsequent induced autophagic/apoptotic cell death.
Conclusion: Elastase plays a significant role in plaque stability and cell survival likely through activation of a UPR/autophagic type of endothelial cell death. This may explain underlying molecular links how elastase destabilizes atherosclerotic plaques.
Author Disclosures: I. Grechowa: None. B. Dorweiler: None. A. Wallrath: None. S. Horke: None.
- © 2015 by American Heart Association, Inc.