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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2012 Jun 15;302(12):H2612-21. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00879.2011. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Mast cell deficiency attenuates progression of atherosclerosis and hepatic steatosis in apolipoprotein E-null mice.

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Division of Allergy, Clinical Immunology, and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


Mast cells are important cells of the immune system and are recognized as participants in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In this study, we evaluated the role of mast cells on the progression of atherosclerosis and hepatic steatosis using the apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE(-/-)) and ApoE(-/-)/mast cell-deficient (Kit(W-sh/W-sh)) mouse models maintained on a high-fat diet. The en face analyses of aortas showed a marked reduction in plaque coverage in ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) compared with ApoE(-/-) after a 6-mo regimen with no significant change noted after 3 mo. Quantification of intima/media thickness on hematoxylin and eosin-stained histological cross sections of the aortic arch revealed no significant difference between ApoE(-/-) and ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice. The high-fat regimen did not induce atherosclerosis in either Kit(W-sh/W-sh) or wild-type mice. Mast cells with indications of degranulation were seen only in the aortic walls and heart of ApoE(-/-) mice. Compared with ApoE(-/-) mice, the serum levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein were decreased by 50% in ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice, whereas no appreciable differences were noted in serum levels of triglycerides or very low density lipoprotein. ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice developed significantly less hepatic steatosis than ApoE(-/-) mice after the 3-mo regimen. The analysis of Th1/Th2/Th17 cytokine profile in the sera revealed significant reduction of interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-10 in ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice compared with ApoE(-/-) mice. The assessment of systemic generation of thromboxane A(2) (TXA(2)) and prostaglandin I(2) (PGI(2)) revealed significant decrease in the production of PGI(2) in ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice with no change in TXA(2). The decrease in PGI(2) production was found to be associated with reduced levels of cyclooxygenase-2 mRNA in the aortic tissues. A significant reduction in T-lymphocytes and macrophages was noted in the atheromas of the ApoE(-/-)/Kit(W-sh/W-sh) mice. These results demonstrate the direct involvement of mast cells in the progression of atherosclerosis and hepatic steatosis.

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