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J Lipid Res. 2002 Jan;43(1):26-35.

Induction of monocyte differentiation and foam cell formation in vitro by 7-ketocholesterol.

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Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine (CS/111E), Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 650 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ 85012-1892, USA.


Oxidized LDL (OxLDL) is composed of many potentially proatherogenic molecules, including oxysterols. Of the oxysterols, 7-ketocholesterol (7-KC) is found in relatively large abundance in OxLDL, as well as in atherosclerotic plaque and foam cells in vivo. Although there is evidence that 7-KC activates endothelial cells, its effect on monocytes is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that 7-KC may induce monocyte differentiation and promote foam cell formation. THP-1 cells were used as a monocyte model system and were treated with 7-KC over a range of concentrations from 0.5 to 10 microg/ml. Changes in cell adhesion properties, cell morphology, and expression of antigens characteristic of differentiated macrophages were monitored over a 7-day period. 7-KC promoted cells to firmly adhere and display morphologic features of differentiated macrophages; this effect was time and dose dependent and was markedly more potent than cholesterol treatment (45% of cells became adherent after 7 days of treatment with 7-KC at 10 microg/ml vs. less then 5% for control cells, P < 0.01). Similar effects were obtained when LDL enriched with 7-KC or OxLDL were added to THP-1 cells. 7-KC-differentiated cells expressed CD11b, CD36, and CD68, phagocytized latex beads, and formed lipid-laden foam cells after exposure to acetylated LDL or OxLDL. In contrast to 7-KC, oxysterols with known cell regulatory effects such as 25-hydroxycholesterol, 7beta-hydroxycholesterol, and (22R)-hydroxycholesterol did not effectively promote THP-1 differentiation. In conclusion, these results demonstrate for the first time that 7-KC, a prominent oxysterol formed in OxLDL by peroxidation of cholesterol, may play an important role in promoting monocyte differentiation and foam cell formation. These studies also suggest that 7-KC induces monocyte differentiation through a sterol-mediated regulatory pathway that remains to be characterized.

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