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Cardiovasc Res. 2000 Oct;48(1):158-67.

Blockade of endothelin receptors markedly reduces atherosclerosis in LDL receptor deficient mice: role of endothelin in macrophage foam cell formation.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, Terrence Donnelly Heart Center, St. Michael's Hospital, 30 Bond Street, Ontario, M5B 1W8, Toronto, Canada.



We evaluated the direct effects of long-term blockade of ET(A) and ET(B) receptors using a mixed endothelin (ET) receptor antagonist, LU224332, in the low density lipoprotein receptor (LDL-R) knockout mouse model of atherosclerosis.


Four groups of LDL-R deficient mice were studied: control mice fed normal chow (group I); mice fed a high cholesterol (HC, 1.25%) diet alone (group II), HC fed animals treated with LU224332 (group III); and mice fed normal chow treated with the LU compound (group IV). All treatments were continued for 8 weeks at which time the animals were sacrificed and the aortae were removed and stained with oil red O. Atherosclerotic area (AA) was determined by quantitative morphometry and normalized relative to total aortic area (TA).


Cholesterol feeding resulted in a marked increased in total plasma cholesterol ( approximately 15 fold) and widespread aortic atherosclerosis (AA/TA: group I: 0.013+/-0.007; group II: 0.33+/-0. 11; P<0.001). Atherosclerotic lesions were characterized by immunohistochemistry as consisting mainly of macrophages which also showed high levels of ET-1 expression. Treatment with ET antagonist significantly reduced the development of atherosclerosis (AA/TA: group III: 0.19+/-0.07, P<0.01 vs. group II), without altering plasma cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The direct effect of LU224332 on macrophage activation and foam-cell formation was determined in vitro using a human macrophage cell line, THP-1. Treatment of the THP-1 cells with LU224332 significantly reduced cholesterol ester and triacylglycerol accumulation and foam-cell formation on exposure to oxidized LDL (P<0.01 and P<0.05, respectively).


We conclude that a nonselective ET receptor antagonist substantially inhibited the development of atherosclerosis in a genetic model of hyperlipidemia, possibly by inhibiting macrophage foam-cell formation, suggesting a role for these agents in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerotic vascular disease.

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