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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2006 Aug;26(8):1702-11. Epub 2006 May 25.

Scavenger receptors in atherosclerosis: beyond lipid uptake.

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  • 1Lipid Metabolism Unit, GRJ1328, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 55 Fruit St, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Atherosclerotic vascular disease arises as a consequence of the deposition and retention of serum lipoproteins in the artery wall. Macrophages in lesions have been shown to express > or = 6 structurally different scavenger receptors for uptake of modified forms of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) that promote the cellular accumulation of cholesterol. Because cholesterol-laden macrophage foam cells are the primary component of the fatty streak, the earliest atherosclerotic lesion, lipid uptake by these pathways has long been considered a requisite and initiating event in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Although the removal of proinflammatory modified LDLs from the artery wall via scavenger receptors would seem beneficial, the pathways distal to scavenger receptor uptake that metabolize the modified lipoproteins appear to become overwhelmed, leading to the accumulation of cholesterol-laden macrophages and establishment of a chronic inflammatory setting. These observations have led to the current dogma concerning scavenger receptors, which is that they are proatherogenic molecules. However, recent studies suggest that the effects of scavenger receptors on atherogenesis may be more complex. In addition to modified lipoprotein uptake, these proteins are now known to regulate apoptotic cell clearance, initiate signal transduction, and serve as pattern recognition receptors for pathogens, activities that may contribute both to proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory forces regulating atherogenesis. In this review, we focus on recent advances in our knowledge of scavenger receptor regulation and signal transduction, their roles in sterile inflammation and infection, and the potential impact of these pathways in regulating the balance of lipid accumulation and inflammation in the artery wall.

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