Melanocortin 1 Receptor Deficiency Promotes Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E−/− Mice
Objective—The MC1-R (melanocortin 1 receptor) is expressed by monocytes and macrophages where it mediates anti-inflammatory actions. MC1-R also protects against macrophage foam cell formation primarily by promoting cholesterol efflux through the ABCA1 (ATP-binding cassette transporter subfamily A member 1) and ABCG1 (ATP-binding cassette transporter subfamily G member 1). In this study, we aimed to investigate whether global deficiency in MC1-R signaling affects the development of atherosclerosis.
Approach and Results—Apoe−/− (apolipoprotein E deficient) mice were crossed with recessive yellow (Mc1re/e) mice carrying dysfunctional MC1-R and fed a high-fat diet to induce atherosclerosis. Apoe−/− Mc1re/e mice developed significantly larger atherosclerotic lesions in the aortic sinus and in the whole aorta compared with Apoe−/− controls. In terms of plaque composition, MC1-R deficiency was associated with less collagen and smooth muscle cells and increased necrotic core, indicative of more vulnerable lesions. These changes were accompanied by reduced ABCA1 and ABCG1 expression in the aorta. Furthermore, Apoe−/− Mc1re/e mice showed a defect in bile acid metabolism that aggravated high-fat diet–induced hypercholesterolemia and hepatic lipid accumulation. Flow cytometric analysis of leukocyte profile revealed that dysfunctional MC1-R enhanced arterial accumulation of classical Ly6Chigh monocytes and macrophages, effects that were evident in mice fed a normal chow diet but not under high-fat diet conditions. In support of enhanced arterial recruitment of Ly6Chigh monocytes, these cells had increased expression of L-selectin and P-selectin glycoprotein ligand 1.
Conclusions—The present study highlights the importance of MC1-R in the development of atherosclerosis. Deficiency in MC1-R signaling exacerbates atherosclerosis by disturbing cholesterol handling and by increasing arterial monocyte accumulation.
- Received June 20, 2017.
- Accepted December 18, 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-NoDerivs License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work is properly cited, the use is noncommercial, and no modifications or adaptations are made.