DKK3 (Dickkopf 3) Alters Atherosclerotic Plaque Phenotype Involving Vascular Progenitor and Fibroblast Differentiation Into Smooth Muscle Cells
Objectives—DKK3 (dickkopf 3), a 36-kD secreted glycoprotein, has been shown to be involved in the differentiation of partially reprogrammed cells and embryonic stem cells to smooth muscle cells (SMCs), but little is known about its involvement in vascular disease. This study aims to assess the effects of DKK3 on atherosclerotic plaque composition.
Approach and Results—In the present study, we used a murine model of atherosclerosis (ApoE−/−) in conjunction with DKK3−/− and performed tandem stenosis of the carotid artery to evaluate atherosclerotic plaque development. We found that the absence of DKK3 leads to vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques, because of a reduced number of SMCs and reduced matrix protein deposition, as well as increased hemorrhage and macrophage infiltration. Further in vitro studies revealed that DKK3 can induce differentiation of Sca1+ vascular progenitors and fibroblasts into SMCs via activation of the TGF-β (transforming growth factor-β)/ATF6 and Wnt signaling pathways. Finally, we assessed the therapeutic potential of DKK3 in mouse and rabbit models and found that DKK3 altered the atherosclerotic plaque content via increasing SMC numbers and reducing vascular inflammation.
Conclusions—Cumulatively, we provide the first evidence that DKK3 is a potent SMC differentiation factor, which might have a therapeutic effect in reducing intraplaque hemorrhage related to atherosclerotic plaque phenotype.
- Received April 1, 2017.
- Accepted December 13, 2017.
- © 2017 The Authors.
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology is published on behalf of the American Heart Association, Inc., by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.