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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40990. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040990. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

Overexpression of TGF-ß1 in macrophages reduces and stabilizes atherosclerotic plaques in ApoE-deficient mice.

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  • 1Central Laboratory Animal Facility, University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany.


Although macrophages represent the hallmark of both human and murine atherosclerotic lesions and have been shown to express TGF-ß1 (transforming growth factor β1) and its receptors, it has so far not been experimentally addressed whether the pleiotropic cytokine TGF-ß1 may influence atherogenesis by a macrophage specific mechanism. We developed transgenic mice with macrophage specific TGF-ß1 overexpression, crossed the transgenics to the atherosclerotic ApoE (apolipoprotein E) knock-out strain and quantitatively analyzed both atherosclerotic lesion development and composition of the resulting double mutants. Compared with control ApoE(-/-) mice, animals with macrophage specific TGF-ß1 overexpression developed significantly less atherosclerosis after 24 weeks on the WTD (Western type diet) as indicated by aortic plaque area en face (p<0.05). Reduced atherosclerotic lesion development was associated with significantly less macrophages (p<0.05 after both 8 and 24 weeks on the WTD), significantly more smooth muscle cells (SMCs; p<0.01 after 24 weeks on the WTD), significantly more collagen (p<0.01 and p<0.05 after 16 and 24 weeks on the WTD, respectively) without significant differences of inner aortic arch intima thickness or the number of total macrophages in the mice pointing to a plaque stabilizing effect of macrophage-specific TGF-ß1 overexpression. Our data shows that macrophage specific TGF-ß1 overexpression reduces and stabilizes atherosclerotic plaques in ApoE-deficient mice.

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