Smooth Muscle Cell–Derived Interleukin-17C Plays an Atherogenic Role via the Recruitment of Proinflammatory Interleukin-17A+ T Cells to the Aorta
Objective—Atherosclerosis is characterized by frequent communication between infiltrating leukocytes and vascular cells, through chemokine and cytokine networks. Interleukin-17C (IL-17C) is detectable within atherosclerotic lesions; however, the potential involvement of this cytokine has not been examined. Thus, we sought to investigate the role of IL-17C in atherosclerosis.
Approach and Results—The expression of IL-17 cytokines was profiled within aortas of apolipoprotein E double knockout (Apoe−/−) mice, and Il17c expression was elevated. Flow cytometry experiments revealed a major population of aortic IL-17C–producing smooth muscle cells. Next, we generated Il17c−/−Apoe−/− mice and demonstrated that atherosclerotic lesion and collagen content was diminished within western diet–fed Il17c−/−Apoe−/− mice aortas and aortic roots in comparison to Apoe−/− controls. Smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts were mainly responsible for the reduced Col1A1 expression in the aorta of Il17c−/−Apoe−/− mice. Importantly, IL-17C–treated Apoe−/− mice aortas showed upregulated Col1A1 expression ex vivo. Il17c−/−Apoe−/− mice displayed a proportional reduction in aortic macrophages, neutrophils, T cells, T helper 1 cells, and T regulatory cells, without corresponding changes in the peripheral immune composition. Examination of aortic IL-17A+ T-cell receptor γδ T cells and Th17 cells demonstrated a stark reduction in the percentage and number of these subsets within Il17c−/−Apoe−/− versus Apoe−/− mice. Explanted 12-week western diet–fed Apoe−/− mice aortas treated with IL-17C resulted in the induction of multiple vascular chemokines and cytokines. Th17 cells demonstrated attenuated migration toward supernatants from cultures of Il17c−/−Apoe−/− smooth muscle cells, and short-term homing experiments revealed diminished recruitment of Th17 cells to the aorta of Il17c−/−Apoe−/− recipients.
Conclusions—Smooth muscle cell–derived IL-17C plays a proatherogenic role by supporting the recruitment of Th17 cells to atherosclerotic lesions.
- Received August 11, 2015.
- Accepted June 10, 2016.
- © 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.